Well, as a friend who works for HP in Corvallis explained to me, HPs printer business is not growing and in modern business you have to grow revenues. So without growth in sales, you need to cut costs and a big cost savings is to employ engineers in Asia rather than in the US.
When I teach comparative advantage, the relative productivity advantage that leads to gains from trade, I try to stress that though in the classical Ricardian example there exist static differences in productivity, such productivity differences evolve through time. Countries like India and China for a long time had a major comparative advantage relative to the US in light manufacturing and other labor intensive activities that came from an abundance of unskilled labor and a relative paucity of skilled labor. But over the last ten to twenty years, this has begun to change quite dramatically. India and China have begun to produce more and more skilled engineers, to use but one example. Thus the relative productivity advantage that the US used to enjoy in engineering is disappearing fast.
Why has the US lost this advantage? One need only look at the sorry state of the US higher education system to figure this out. Federal funding for basic research is almost non-existant, states support for public higher education is drying up and the K-12 system is sending (and not sending) kids to college without proper preparation. From my vantage point it is not hard to feel pretty pessimistic about the future. Our best hope is to try and hold on to all of the incredibly talented foreigners that come to get advanced degrees (for the time being at least) in the US. But with stricter immigration policies and ever improving opportunities at home, many foreign students are choosing to return, leaving the US talent-poor and loosing more and more industry.
So back to Oregon. What can a state do to combat these job losses? Produce skilled individuals who have the ability to be high productivity participants in the 21st century. This takes time and resources for the entire educational system. Failure to do so will leave us in the unfortunate position of having a comparative advantage in low value-added activities.