Survey: Job prospects in Ashland poor

Editor's note: This is the final of three stories on a recent survey of Ashland residents' opinions on their community and government services. The other two ran Thursday and Friday and can be read online at

Only 12 percent of residents in a recent survey said employment opportunities in Ashland are good or excellent.

Strong majorities of respondents ranked quality of life attributes for Ashland as good or excellent, making negative views on job opportunities and the local economy stand out even more.

Ashlanders were much less satisfied with employment opportunities in their city than average Americans or residents of similarly sized university towns, according to National Research Center, Inc., which conducted the survey for the city of Ashland in January.

City officials reviewed the results of the survey this week.

Only 32 percent of surveyed Ashland adults said they were employed full-time for pay. Another 28 percent worked part-time.

A total of 40 percent were not employed for pay.

Guy Tauer, regional economist for WorkSource Oregon Employment Department, said it's not unusual to have a sizable number of adults in a community not working, given the fact that many are retired, attending college or otherwise not in the labor force.

An average of 42.4 percent of people over age 16 were not working in Ashland from 2005 through 2009, according to the most recent American Community Survey.

An average of 42 percent of Medford residents over age 16 were not working during that time, the American Community Survey found.

The city of Ashland's recent National Research Center survey questioned people who were age 18 or older.

People age 65 and older made up 21 percent of respondents in that survey.

Residents ages 18 through 24 — the time when many people are in college and don't work or work part-time — made up 12 percent of respondents.

Only 30 percent of respondents said the town's economic development services are good or excellent.

City Administrator Martha Bennett said city officials will be paying attention to the results of the survey, especially on the economic front.

"The citizen comments about our economic development activities I think we should take to heart," she said, adding that there is a citizen perception that the city does not do enough to stimulate economic development and job creation in the community.

With input from residents and the business community, the city of Ashland is in the midst of creating an economic development plan.

A total of 94 percent said job growth was too slow. Dissatisfaction with job growth was higher in Ashland than in average American cities and university towns, the National Research Center said.

In a section of the anonymous survey where people could write comments, many said the city needs to do more to attract businesses.

"We need more shops and stores for job opportunities for college students," one wrote.

Another person said, "Encourage development of sites for manufacturing businesses."

Some said the city's planning processes and regulations were too burdensome.

"Stop making it so difficult for businesses that will provide jobs to start here," a resident wrote.

Some favored attracting more chain stores like Target, large grocery stores and fast-food outlets to town to provide jobs and cheap products. Others said the city should support small, locally owned businesses, and not sacrifice quality land use planning because of the economic slump.

Many said panhandlers downtown are a nuisance and are driving away business.

"The homeless population and their vicious dogs make downtown unbearable. We have stopped supporting the local businesses downtown because of this issue and typically do all our errands and dining in Medford," one person wrote.

Others said the city should help homeless people by providing services and a shelter.

As far as existing businesses, 68 percent said they are good or excellent. That ranking is above other American cities and university towns, the National Research Center said.

Ashland was about even with other communities on the issue of availability of quality affordable childcare, with 41 percent saying it was good or excellent.

Only 20 percent of respondents said they had children age 17 or younger living at home.

When asked what impact they thought the economy would have on their household income in the next six months, 43 percent thought it would be negative, 41 percent predicted it would be neutral and 16 percent thought it would be positive.

Men had a brighter outlook, with 21 percent saying the economy would impact their family financially in a positive way in the near future. Only 13 percent of women felt that way.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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