Uncertainty was one of themes of the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce’s annual economic outlook luncheon at the Pendleton Convention Center Wednesday.

Economist Bill Conerly delivered the keynote address at the luncheon, where he told the city’s business community that Pendleton’s short-term economic prospects looked good.

With Umatilla County seeing both population and economic growth, Conerly told the audience that a low unemployment rate usually causes turnover issues as workers feel more comfortable quitting their current jobs to seek other work.

Conerly said workers tend to leave jobs because of unhappiness with their bosses and suggested employers invest in training their managers.

While the local economy is improving in Conerly’s view, he was less sure how President Donald Trump’s positions would affect the national economy.

Given Trump’s skepticism of current international trade deals, Conerly said a decrease in imports could hurt the retail and manufacturing industries.

“During trade negotiations, I expect him to come right to the edge of disaster before stepping back,” he said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Increased deportations of undocumented immigrants under Trump could also hurt businesses, Conerly said.

According to Conerly, undocumented labor makes up a significant portion of the agriculture, construction and hospitality industries, and some companies could see their workforce reduced by a third if their businesses are targeted in a raid.

Conerly suggested business owners and management plan ahead for any kind of economic downturn so they can respond quickly if it comes to pass.

The luncheon also featured a speech from Jeff Lorton, the creative director of Duke Joseph Agency and the project manager for Oregon UAS FutureFarm, an organization that connects technology companies with local farmers.

Because of the success of previous events, Lorton said Pendleton’s annual Precision Farming Expo would be expanded from two days to three and run from Aug. 15-17. He hopes the event attracts 350 people.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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