A history of moving forward.
Honoring our visionary founder by focusing on the future
When Ed Whitelaw arrived in Oregon in the late 1960s, the state’s economy revolved around the timber industry. Originally from Kansas, Ed noticed that Oregonians regarded trees much like crops—something to plant and harvest. He was struck by the lack of consideration in policy decisions for any other value that nature, particularly forests, might have.
The notion that nature could have an impact on the economy outside of the timber industry was reinforced as American workers became more mobile, choosing to live where they wanted rather than where jobs were available. Workers, especially in the growing high-tech sector, were attracted to the natural wonders of the Northwest—its majestic mountains, pristine coastlines, clean rivers, and temperate climates. Ed knew that finding the right balance between development and conservation could be crucial to the state’s economic future.
Ed saw that the lack of academic insight, especially from the field of economics, meant policymakers were making critical decisions without enough analysis to ensure the region’s current and future prosperity. In response, he established ECOnorthwest in 1974 with a mission to bridge the gap between academia and policy, partnering with two former students, Terry Moore and Ernie Niemi.
Initially specializing in natural resource and land use concerns, ECO’s reputation for independence and insight translated well into transportation, utility, education, healthcare, and social policy-making processes. Understanding that economists alone couldn’t tackle the increasingly complex questions of our time, we enlisted a diverse team of planners, engineers, geographers, sociologists, and political scientists.
Today, the scale and breadth of our projects would be unrecognizable by those who helped shape ECOnorthwest. But the values underlying the work remain the same.
Our clients come to us with questions, but they do not direct our answers.
We make the complicated clear.
We keep asking questions, from many perspectives, to get to the core of problems and their solutions.
We produce great work together: crossing disciplines and learning side-by-side.
We strive for:
Our work informs decisions that improve the communities where we live and work.