Corvallis and Benton County got two nuggets of good economic news over the last week. Even if the good news doesn't add up to substantial evidence that we've turned the corner and are cruising toward recovery, a bit of muted celebration still is called for.
First, the unemployment rate in Benton County dropped a bit in September, falling from a seasonally adjusted rate of 8.1 percent in August to 7.6 percent. Now, we're not out of the woods yet, not by any stretch, and the number could resume its upward climb as our economy continues to absorb job cutbacks in the public sector. Remember as well that Benton County has lost more than 2,000 jobs since September 2008, when the unemployment rate was 4.4 percent.
But the bottom line is that any reduction in the unemployment rate is welcome, although a sigh of relief is a more appropriate response than wild celebration. And it doesn't get us off the hook to continue to work at creating new jobs, especially private sector jobs.
Which is why we were cheered by the second bit of good economic news: A Corvallis company, Precision Plant Systems, won the top prize at last week's Bend Venture Conference, nabbing $120,000 in investment funding.
Precision Plant Systems is a company that is using technology developed at Oregon State University. The company's offices are housed in the Business Enterprise Center near the Corvallis airport, a facility that helps incubate growing companies. In other words, Precision Plant Systems is a poster child for a very promising type of economic development in Corvallis, and the fact that it topped the competition at the Bend conference is cause for cheer. Congratulations go out to the company's president, Larry Plotkin, and the rest of its employees.
Our hope, of course, is that there's a connection between these two bits of good news: As companies like Precision Plant Systems grow and prosper here, they add jobs. And that helps keep Benton County unemployment numbers down.
The other lesson here is that this is how you rebuild and reshape an economy: One company at a time, one or two or three jobs at a time. It's a lot of hard work.
There will be setbacks. But that's all the more reason to celebrate the victories.
Visit with 'Rubes' cartoonist
Don't forget that the Gazette-Times is hosting a free event tonight with Leigh Rubin, the cartoonist behind "Rubes," the G-T's newest addition to the comics page.
We'll get under way at 7 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 4515 S.W. West Hills Drive. Although the event is free, we encourage you to bring a donation of nonperishable food for Linn Benton Food Share.
Participants will get a chance to fill out a couple of surveys that will help us here at the G-T: One survey will focus on our current selection of comics, and the other is meant to gauge reader interest in the wide variety of stories and other features that we offer in the newspaper.
That work aside, we're also expecting that participants will get a solid dose of fun from Rubin's talk. We'll see you tonight.