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Good news in the business outlook

Those of us who watched John Mitchell’s annual economics lesson at the Business Outlook Conference Tuesday could just imagine him updating his PowerPoint presentation as the rest of the week’s news unfolded.

He knew all the economic news was coming; he wrapped his optimism with all the uncertainty in his presentation: Voters approved the state tax increases, but not the debate on how that will impact the economic future of Oregon. The president clearly made private job creation a priority in his State of the Union message, and he did not back away from working to solve the health insurance puzzle. Congress reappointed the Federal Reserve chairman, who did not act to raise interest rates – yet.

There was good news, as Mitchell taught us, in hearing that the tiny “upticks” he could see in the economy during December took a stronger hold. According to this week’s reports about December and the fourth quarter of 2009, consumer confidence rose, and so did the Gross National Product. It’s a safe prediction that Mitchell is still cautious, but that he’s taken some of the caution away from his prediction of better times.

Even more encouraging was some of the local news and lessons at the Business Outlook Conference. There is tangible progress on access to health care, a new community college building and better air service. There are more major construction projects under way or in the planning stages. Commercial lenders are ready to do business again. Firms that focus on delivering good products customer service can survive in tough economic times.

The best news of all from the conference: There were 150 people who took a day out of their work week to learn all these things about the economy, to invest in improving the business climate of our community.

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