Creating local jobs is focus for Dems

The three Democratic candidates running for Jackson County Commissioner, Position No. 2, all believe the county has the resources needed to create new family-wage jobs and put money back into the pockets of taxpayers.

But each candidate has his own ideas on how to go about that.

Former Medford Planning Commissioner Mark Soderstrom, Jeff Scroggin, legislative aide/chief of staff to Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, and county IT professional John Beatty all shared their ideas on job creation and budgets at a forum hosted by the Jackson County Democrats at the Oregon Education Association building, 2495 S. Pacific Highway, Tuesday night.

The three candidates are part of a pool of seven vying for Commissioner C.W. Smith's seat starting next year.

Candidates answered several prepared questions followed by some questions from the audience, many of which had to do with the local economy.

Regarding solutions for creating sustainable jobs in the county, Scroggin said prudent, fiscally responsible investments are key. He thinks small investments made through the Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc., such as installing broadband Internet in rural counties and infrastructure improvements, will yield large returns and create jobs. He added that more companies beyond the county's largest employers need to be involved in innovative job creation.

"We need to enlarge that roundtable in a meaningful way," Scroggin said.

Soderstrom pointed to solar power as a way to create jobs and keep dollars local. By tapping into a state pilot program, Soderstrom said Jackson County could build solar panels, generating local power and creating up to 1,000 jobs in the county.

He also pointed to his idea for a health clinic run by nurse practitioners, which would create jobs and also cut costs seen in typically pricier visits to the emergency room, resulting in millions of dollars of annual savings, he said.

"If we get health care costs down, we get more jobs. It's just that simple," Soderstrom said.

Beatty said he agreed the county needs to continue its relationship with SOREDI. He also said he would like to continue talks with local film and television organizations to see what needs to be done to encourage the filming of more productions in the area, which could result in additional job creation.

"If we had this happening on a regular basis, it could be a sustainable business around here," Beatty said.

Candidates also were asked how they plan to assist in bolstering the economy while protecting the county's natural resources.

Soderstrom re-emphasized his solar power plan, saying it would not be a drain on the local environment and that it would generate local revenue.

"Renewable energy needs to be built in Jackson County," Soderstrom said.

Beatty said he likes living in an area where one can drive 20 minutes in any direction and be surrounded by pristine wilderness, and he said he wants to keep it that way when considering job-creation ventures.

"I'm focused on this county," he said.

Scroggin said striking a balance is important when it comes to considering the environmental impact of job creation because environmentalists, land-management proponents and everyone in between will have to sign on if solutions are to be found.

"We're going to have to find a happy medium," Scroggin said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at

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