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Chair's Blog

Alliance 2014 priorities: It’s still about jobs March 2014
By Gregg Kantor

At its recent board retreat, the Portland Business Alliance added focus areas that support its overall mission of retaining and growing jobs to its list of priorities.  While education remains a  top priority, the Alliance will also focus on these initiatives:
  • Increasing industrial land availability;
  • Ensuring freight mobility;
  • Maintaining a strong and jobs-focused Portland Development Commission;
  • Ensuring a strong downtown; and
  • Achieving the Knight Cancer Institute challenge grant.
These issues will be at the heart of our policy efforts over the next 18 months, and we will keep you informed as we make progress.
The Legislature considered some of these issues during its recent 2014 session. Here’s how some of the Alliance’s priorities fared:

Achieving the Knight Cancer Institute challenge grant
The Knight challenge grant may be the single-biggest economic development opportunity for Portland in this decade. In support of that effort, the Alliance endorsed OHSU’s request for $200 million in capital construction bonds for the expansion of the Knight Cancer Institute. OHSU’s request was approved by the Legislature. This is great news as the state’s support is a critical component to jumpstart the facilities needed for this groundbreaking work. We look forward to helping OHSU get the full $500 million match for the $1 billion Knight Cancer Challenge.

Increasing industrial land availability
Based on studies we have done as part of the Value of Jobs campaign, we know that our region faces a critical shortage of jobs-ready industrial lands. In one effort to address that issue, at least in part, the Alliance supported codification of the urban growth boundary in Washington County.  The legislation will resolve years of litigation, including the Court of Appeals’ recent reversal of Metro’s decision to expand employment land in Washington County. This is the kind of policy needed to accommodate job growth as well as attract new businesses.
 
Ensuring freight mobility
For the last 10 years, the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) has been the Alliance’s top-priority transportation project because of the critical role the I-5 bridge plays in freight mobility and employee transportation. After the Washington Legislature failed to act in support of that project last year, the Alliance joined with the state’s major business associations, the Port of Portland, and others to support Governor John Kitzhaber’s proposed Oregon-led project. The Legislature did not take action on that proposal and now, after a decade of work, the Oregon Department of Transportation plans to shut the project down by May 31.

This is a missed opportunity for the region and the state, as we are left with a bridge that still needs to be replaced, but have most likely lost out on $850 million in federal resources to help fund the project.

In short, efforts toward our goals at the 2014 legislative session produced a mix bag of results. Nevertheless, all of these board priorities will remain at the forefront of the Alliance’s work for the next 18 months. Additionally, we always want to hear from our members about other issues that impact your businesses. Give the Alliance staff a call any time to voice a concern or offer an idea about the work we should be doing on your behalf. We appreciate your feedback and look forward to working on your behalf in the months ahead.
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