Tom McCall, who served as Oregon's governor from 1967 to 1975, best expressed the ethos of the Northwest during his time. Referring to Oregon's tourism industry in 1971 and the desire to attract travelers to his state, McCall said: "I urge them to come and come many, many times to enjoy the beauty of Oregon. But I also ask them, for heaven's sake, don't move here to live.
"That attitude morphed into a TV commercial for Blitz Weinhard beer in which some truckers from California get stopped at the border attempting to bring a truckload from their state into Oregon. "Where you fellas goin' with all that beer?" a state trooper asks before sending them back from whence they came.
And while Washington might not have expressed Oregon's "visit, but don't stay" attitude quite as vociferously, the attitude long has permeated the Northwest. People in this corner of the country have been leery of sprawl and growth and anything that might be viewed as a threat to the pristine natural environment that is considered the region's defining feature. The argument has shifted in recent generations, as the public has come to recognize that growth is essential to economic stability and the future of the region. Washington and Oregon still have strict land-use laws to prevent sprawl, but they have realized that isolationism is not an effective management policy.
All of this came to mind last week in the wake of a story by Columbian reporter Cami Joner, who detailed the fact that Clark County is becoming a destination not only for tourists but for those looking to relocate. In November, Clark County saw a 37 percent increase compared with the previous November in the number of drivers trading in out-of-town driver's licenses. That's one of the best ways to measure the influx of residents to a region — when people move, they change the address on their license — and the November numbers reflected a continuing trend. From January through November, 13,323 new residents had exchanged out-of-town driver's licenses in Clark County, an increase of 11.5 percent over the same period in 2012.
The reasons are varied, and comparisons with our neighbor to the south highlight some of Clark County's primary attractions. Public schools here are regarded as being superior to Portland public schools; there's no income tax in Washington; and housing on this side of the river is much less expensive than comparable homes in the Portland area. Plus, as recent transplant Michael Hendrix told Joner, "Perfect strangers smile at you when you pass them on the street."
In other words, we might have our share of disagreements, but Clark County has a lot of selling points.
During November, a total of 528 Oregonians turned in driver's licenses for local ones, ranking as the largest group. The next-largest was California with 179 transplants, followed by Arizona with 57 transfers. A total of 45 states plus Canada and Mexico were represented.
Clark County still has the highest unemployment rate in the Portland metropolitan area, and the economy remains bumpy in the wake of the Great Recession. But the Washington State Employment Security Department reported that the county added 4,100 job from January through October, and there have been glimmers of hope that the local economy is recovering.
So, things are looking up for a county that remains a wonderful place to live, and we have many new residents to help make it more wonderful. For them, we turn Tom McCall's philosophy on its head: Enjoy your stay; we hope it's a long one.