Projected S. Ore. job growth among strongest in state

The future of jobs in Jackson and Josephine counties, according to the Oregon Employment Department, is in service industries.

The findings are part of employment projections through 2018, showing Central and Southern Oregon will have the fastest job growth rates of the state's 15 regions. Metro areas are expected to grow at close to the statewide average, and half of the state's job growth will be in the Portland area.

Retail workers, waiters and waitresses, cashiers and food preparers will be at the forefront.

"It's fair to say the largest growth will be in service industries that will be taking care of the people who live here," said Bill Thorndike Jr., president of Medford Fabrication, who has served on a regional board of the Federal Reserve and the Port of Portland Commission. "Service jobs will grow naturally with population growth. My hope would be that manufacturing would be able to at least hold the line."

While the Employment Department anticipated modest job growth between 2008 and 2018, many openings are expected due to the need to replace workers leaving their occupations.

State forecasters expect economic growth to add more than 160,000 jobs, a gain of 9 percent over the coming decade. That's less than the 10 percent gain that occurred in the decade ending last year. The manufacturing industry is the only broad sector expected to lose jobs between 2008 and 2018.

Local employers agree with the service job projections, but hope manufacturing will rebound.

Thorndike anticipates new types of manufacturing will emerge in the next decade. "If you would have asked people 20 years ago about heavy-lift helicopters, many would have asked what a heavy-lift helicopter is," said Thorndike, alluding to Erickson Air Crane's plant in Central Point.

PremierWest Bank Chairman John Anhorn said the future lies in small start-ups such as electric motorcycle maker Brammo in Ashland.

"It's the little companies like Brammo that will get things going again," Anhorn said. "People with experience will come this way and hopefully bring manufacturing as they do."

Anhorn said he anticipates Californians again will begin moving to Southern Oregon in significant numbers, which will eat into the inventory of available homes.

"When growth returns, we've got to have a base economy of manufacturing feeding it. Of course, home building will be part of that. If it turns out like it did in the '80s, all the sudden we will feel good about ourselves and then we start growing."

Education and health care services are expected to grow by 23 percent statewide, adding nearly 50,000 jobs. Nursing is among the Top 10 growth occupations in Southern Oregon.

"We're going to see conservative growth in health care and education around here. Even with manufacturing seeing drops in some areas, there will be upticks in others," said Brad Hicks, chief executive officer of The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County. "But If I was to crystal ball it, I'd say our job growth was going to primarily come in health care and education."

Clint Fjarli, who builds and leases commercial buildings, said looser requirements on commercial loans and lines of credit would encourage small businesses to take root the community.

"Even people with the best credit rating in the world are having a hard time getting loans right now," Fjarli said.

Professional and business services will grow by about 14 percent, or almost 28,000 jobs. Larry Cogdell, a Medford financial planner, said that will be especially true here.

"The biggest manufacturing sector we had here was lumber, and environmental issues just killed it," Cogdell said. "What else do we have here? So it's going to have to be services — client, retail and professional services. More and more retired people are moving here and want to be close to doctors and hospitals."

The projections are available on the Oregon Employment Department's economic and workforce information Web site,

Select a region from the map and look in the Publications tab for "Regional Projections by Industry and Occupation 2008-2018."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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