20K jobs by 2020? 'It's going to be a challenge'

20K jobs by 2020? 'It's going to be a challenge' »Play Video
Unemployed workers fill out online resumes at a March job fair.

EUGENE, Ore. - Laura Hall remembers the day her job in the RV manufacturing industry vanished.

"People started disappearing," she recalled of that day at Monaco Coach, "and next two men came beside me and walked me to the door and that was it."

Hall eventually found part-time work as a janitor, but it's been a struggle to make ends meet. She had to move from a nice apartment into public housing. "My kids didn't like that," she said, "but you have to do what you have to do."

In 2009, Lane County elected leaders launched a plan to re-build the county's economy. Their idea was to create 20,000 jobs by the year 2020.

Lane County's economy has shown some signs of improvement since the project started in September 2009. Back then the unemployment rate was 12.2 percent. Now it's 9.6 percent with some growth in manufacturing, health services and restaurants.

KVAL News asked  Shawn Winkler-Rios of eDEV in Eugene if the program to create 20,000 jobs by 2020 can still work.

"I think it's still possible but it's going to be a challenge," Winkler-Rios said.

That challenge is the current economy. "There's a lot of uncertainty in the economy still."

Winkler-Rios has been helping develop a strategy for job creation in Lane County. He said they are focusing on sectors of the economy that can take root in Lane County and pay good wages. He said the program "has the right set of directions, the right set of priorities for the community and now I think we're moving into the implementation."

A key focus is on entrepreneurs, and Winkler-Ross said they've seen some success.

"Every day we've just got more people from rural and Eugene/Springfield coming in and looking either to start a business or needing help with one," he said.

The support from county elected leaders is only part of the equation.

Winkler-Rios said it's the entrepreneurs that do the work. "It's not us. We support them but it's really these business owners and these entrepreneurs that are the ones that are going to make this happen."

For Hall, the sooner the better. "You know, you worry about are you going to have enough hours therefore have enough money to pay all your bills," she said.