‘You saved my town’ — GOP state rep says Building Trades worked with him to save Prineville


McLain at OSBCTC
Mike McLain

BEND—The Great Recession of 2008-09 impacted Crook County more than any county in the state of Oregon.

“We had the highest unemployment in the state. We had the highest food insecurity rate. In every statistic that you’d be embarrassed about, we led it. It was dire,” State Rep. Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) told delegates attending the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council convention.

Prineville—the largest town in Crook County with a population of 9,100—had been struggling long before the recession hit. The wood products industry was spiraling downward, and its largest employer, Les Schwab Tire Centers, had relocated its corporate headquarters to Bend.

So when Facebook and Apple rolled into town with plans to build gigantic data centers, they were welcomed with open arms.

While Prineville is best known for timber and tires,  “we started to be known for technology, the third T,” McLane said.

But then a new fight developed, this one over the state’s tax policies known as “central assessments.” McLane said the uncertainty threatened future growth of the data center industry in the state.

So in 2012, McLane, then a freshman legislator, sponsored a bill to bring some tax certainty to Oregon. “I was a freshman legislator, not quite sure what I was doing, and not quite aware of the forces I was taking on,” he said.

That’s when he met Joe Esmonde, a union rep for IBEW Local 48, and John Mohlis, head of the Oregon Building Trades Council.

“They said they would help,” McLane said.

Long story short—with support from the building trades, the Legislature passed  a bill, dubbed “the Facebook bill,” that changed the tax structure for data centers, and the companies that run them. As a result, Facebook and Apple continued to expand their data centers in Prineville, creating hundreds  of union construction jobs.

“I am incredibly grateful to you … you saved my town!” McLane told delegates. “Your brothers and sisters are working in my district, saving my town from utter despair.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Read more