For those of us who follow political and business news in our Northwest neighborhood, there have been some interesting stories lately about efforts of the three states to attract … or keep from losing … major companies.

A thought-proving piece came recently from Randy Stapilus of Ridenbaugh Press dealing with a column by Ben Jacklet, editor of Oregon Business Review magazine, read by business leaders around Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Remember measures 66 and 67 we voted on a few months ago in Oregon? Remember those threatening posters about “job killing taxes” opponents tacked up all over the place at a cost of a couple million bucks? Remember the threats that, if passed, those two measures would drive businesses out of Oregon? “Job killing taxes” was the threat.

Well, according to Stapilus, Jacklet remembered, too. So he wrote a March 24th, story to his readers, reminding them of all that hysterical rhetoric. He waited a week or two, read the responses to his piece … which he described as mostly “setting new standards for vitriol” … and wrote another story.

This time, he drew a line in the sand. “I still am lacking the name of a single job-creating investor or executive who is, in fact, leaving Oregon because of Measures 66 and 67.”

He made his point. He’s waiting. So are the rest of us.

Plain fact is, there are other factors that may be more important to attracting … or losing … business than taxes. Forbes publishes a “Best States For Business” rating annually. It lists these categories as most important to business decision makers: labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, prospects for growth, business costs and quality of life.

Idaho, for example, has bragged for years about a stable, “three legged” tax structure: sales, property, income. “Predictable, steady, business friendly.” But, as Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is fond of pointing out, Idaho’s income tax is graduated and there is a tax on corporate profits. Zing! Still, taxes important? Yes. Job killing? No.

So, in recent months, our friend Gov. Butch Otter has been fighting his own battle, contacting major corporations, recruiting them on behalf of the Gem state. “Predictable tax and regulatory policies are what employers need … to maintain operations through this rough patch.” “Patch” being our recession.

So, what happens as he writes? While Washington State has a business and occupation tax on gross receipts … and Idaho doesn’t … Wal-Mart closed operations in Lewiston, ID, in March, moved across the border to new and expanded facilities in Washington State, adding jobs in the process!

It’s not just taxes. Washington has a better-funded public education program and a very good and diverse transportation network. If you’re Wal-Mart, a ready, trainable workforce and options to move your goods around can trump taxes if the numbers work otherwise.

Sure, taxes are a factor. No question. But, as in the Wal-Mart case, taxes were not THE factor. Or Wal-Mart likely would have stayed put.

Those who litter our landscape with scary … and false … warnings about taxes next time the question is put to us, need to look at the complete business environment before going ballistic. As is the case with all of us, businesses have many requirements to make them successful. And profitable. Tax load is only one condition.

Roseburg Forest Products, Reser Foods, Waremart, Bi-Mart, Nike, to name a few, are not going to close up shop to avoid some increased taxes. Be they temporary or permanent. As long as the total corporate environment allows stability, growth and profitability, they’re not going to quit Oregon in a tax huff. There are too many other factors to consider. If a corporation is well-run, it’ll adjust pricing, conform overhead to changed conditions or alter some of the ways it does business.

Any large company stalking out across our borders, looking for greener and cheaper pastures because of 66 and 67, would probably have other problems. But, as the folks at the Oregon Business Review found with their statewide challenge, that apparently hasn’t happened.

I am not anti-corporation. I’m happy when companies make a profit if they do so as honest corporate citizens. But lavishing millions of bucks on dire and specious warnings to us neighbors, as in the terribly well-funded but losing 66 and 67 example, did not support honesty or help their corporate images.

The 66-67 onus now passes to Democrats in Salem. We were given specific reasons why legislators needed our approval. And more money. It’s up to them to see that those new dollars go to exactly the purposes advertised. It’s up to Republicans to make sure that happens and to help “git ‘er done.”

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