Officials seek aid for businesses affected by Oregon wildfires

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Economic development officials are considering asking Oregon lawmakers for funds for low-interest loans for small businesses impacted by the summer's harsh fire season during the upcoming short legislative session.

Jason Lewis-Berry, who serves as the economic policy adviser for Gov. Kate Brown and is the director of Regional Solutions, told legislators Tuesday that the reduced revenues and cash flow to small businesses during the fire season could affect their credit ratings and access to capital.

The state is still calculating the economic damage caused by the wildfires, the Capital Press reported Tuesday.

About 600 more leisure and hospitality jobs were lost in the central Oregon, the Columbia River Gorge and the southwest Oregon regions in September than is typical for that time of year, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Lewis-Berry believes it is likely that the reduction in air quality and road closures in eastern Oregon during the fires had an impacted on summer travel and commerce to and from the region.

The smoke produced from the wildfires led to cancellations of Cycle Oregon, an annual cycling event in central and southern Oregon, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and the Sisters Folk Festival in the Bend area.

Because wildfires will always be a part of Oregon life, Mark Johnson, president and CEO of the business lobbying group Oregon Business and Industry, sees the need for more year-round jobs in the Columbia River Gorge communities that do not rely on "somebody from Portland coming out to either buy an ice cream cone or a pint of beer."

Other local economies also have room for improvement, Lewis-Berry said.

"We really need to think about economic resilience in communities that could be affected by fires in the future," Lewis-Berry said.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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