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Chamber's president focused on recession

Chamber's president focused on recession

Randy Jones is quick to point out his top priority for the next year as he leads The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County board.

"We have to work on helping businesses out of the recession," Jones said Thursday.

He's seen the reports that the recession officially ended in June 2009, but the evidence surrounding him indicates the local economy hasn't traveled far enough through the tunnel to see daylight. He sees his role as an encourager helping to sustain businesses and increase employment.

"We know small business is the engine that makes the economy work," Jones said. "We're hoping that message gets out to decision-makers. The last two or three years have not been good for the business community. We need to change how we think about that and how we get healthy again. Job growth will help slow down the foreclosure rate and the wet blanket it has thrown over the economy."

Jones calls himself a guarded optimist who sees the cup as half full. Jones is general manager and partner for Mahar Homes and Veranda Park Retirement Living and is a former president of the Jackson County Homebuilders Association. In 2009, he was awarded the Jackson County Homebuilder of the Year for the fourth time and was named State of Oregon Homebuilder of the Year. He has been a chamber board member since the mid-2000s and was Chamber Member of the Year in 2006.

Jones sees the chamber's partnership with the Sustainable Valley Program initiative as a pivotal tool in developing green technology jobs in Southern Oregon.

The chamber has carved out a role in the state's political process, pushing for legislation to enhance business performance. "Obviously, communication with governmental entities is important so that our message is direct, clear and concise," Jones said.

He sees the importance of collaboration between public and private interests to leverage opportunities. "We don't believe private business alone or government alone can create the type of recovery we need for the citizens of Jackson County," Jones said. "There will be a lot of dialogue. Where we can agree, we will be strong, and where we disagree, we will work through those issues."

Business isn't a thing to Jones, it's a collection of people working cooperatively. As a result, even in bad financial times, the opportunity exists for business to grow. "There is a lot of underdevelopment in existing Southern Oregon businesses," Jones said. "We want to incubate entrepreneurs, but we cannot rely on service-level and entry-level employment to sustain the local economy. We want living-wage jobs for people who can pay taxes because they are making money."

He said he would like to see a combative atmosphere in the public arena become a competitive one. "Competition is good, but let's get things to the place where people can compete," Jones said. "It takes good policy to create a win-win situation and we have the talent and willpower in the community to do that."

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