Ed Ray has been in Oregon only six months, but he has figured out what a lot of politicos in Salem and Portland haven't: When it comes to the economy, all Oregonians are in the same boat.

"We need to understand the interdependence of the Oregon economy," the Oregon State University president told a recent gathering of ranchers at a rangeland open house near Burns. "Do we understand how important natural resource jobs are to all the state?"

That's the problem. There are actually folks running around Portland, Salem and Eugene and other hot spots of ignorance who believe what goes on in John Day or Burns will in no way affect them.

Until it does. The past few years in Oregon have made that point loud and clear. The mirage of the "Silicon Forest" evaporated in the dot-com meltdown and the rest of Oregon's economy crumbled, leaving thousands of Oregonians jobless and hopeless that they would find work again.

In past decades, the state's strong natural-resource economy - farming, ranching and timber - would have been there to backstop the rest of the economy, but since the farmers, ranchers and lumber companies have been hammered, hobbled and hampered in the courts and through over-regulation, all Oregonians were left high and dry.

For every computer geek thrown out of work, there were three loggers to greet him in the unemployment line.

That OSU President Ray could see this and other state leaders don't is, in itself, a wonder for many Oregonians, particularly in the rural areas, who have been warning that if they went out of business, the rest of the state would suffer.

It's time to cut the chatter about "economic development" and do something about it. It's time to tell the public, loud and clear, that, yes, Oregon is open for business and that no one will be allowed to stand in the way of economic development.

By the way, you won't hear that these days. You'll hear happy talk about "sustainable" this and "responsible" that. Those are just code words for "more of the same."

Economic development means jobs. It means creating wealth using natural resources. You don't make it happen by cooking up snappy slogans or new "programs" to make more work for Salem bureaucrats.

You do it by clearing the way of regulatory roadblocks, over litigious zealotry and the "I've-got-mine-and-to-heck-with-you" attitude so many in Portland and the rest of the Willamette Valley have.

When the going gets tough, the real Oregonians dust off their hands and go to work. The rest - those know-it-alls in Portland and elsewhere - furrow their brows and order another latte.

And keep dreaming.

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