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Chair's Blog

Unite for the Knight’s success closes out a great year June 2015
By Debbie Kitchin

We have reached the end of the fiscal year, and the end of my term as your board chair. It has been a true honor to lead this organization over the past 12 months, and I feel proud of all that we have accomplished. I'd like to use this column to reflect on a few of our successes that I believe are contributing to the health and vitality of our regional business community. We teamed up with business and labor organizations together to help the OHSU Knight Cancer Challenge reach its $1 billion fundraising goal through the Unite for the Knight campaign, launched an advising program to help small businesses, advocated for the importance of international trade through the 2015 Year of Trade campaign and released a first-of-its kind Value of Jobs report on middle-income jobs.

Today, OHSU announced it reached its $1B fundraising goal for the Knight Cancer Challenge. This is a major victory for our state and will help position us as a world class cancer research center. We are proud to have been part of the effort through the Unite for the Knight campaign, an effort between labor and business to help raise money for the for the Knight Cancer Challenge. This campaign helped businesses of all sizes get involved in this community fundraising effort and realize their impact. For me, it was inspiring to see leaders from both sides of the table come together for the greater good of our city and region. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

This year, the Alliance partnered with the Pacific Northwest International Trade Association (PNITA) and the Port of Portland to raise awareness for the power of trade to transform Oregon’s economy. The 2015 Year of Trade campaign, which will run through December, has consisted of advocacy, events, digital communication and grassroots outreach to bring attention to the importance of trade to Oregon’s economy and community. Most recently, we have been rallying support for the Trade Promotion Authority bill, which is expected to be voted on later this week.

In March, we started a brand new program for small business owners. Through a partnership with Portland Community College’s Small Business Development Center, the Alliance provides advising to small business owners at no cost. The advising sessions are available every Tuesday at the Alliance by appointment only. As a small business owner myself, this program really hits home for me and I can’t encourage my fellow small business owners enough to take advantage of it while it’s available. Small business owners can visit the Alliance website for information on how to sign up.

Our Value of Jobs report on middle-income jobs was one of the most interesting and eye opening projects I worked on as chair.  The report revealed some startling data around what a decline in middle-income jobs means for our economic vitality and for the region’s workers compared to those in similar U.S. metro areas. A big takeaway from this study focused on home affordability in Portland-metro, showing us that the region’s core has no home ownership opportunities for households earning less than $70,000. Certainly, we don’t want Portland to become a place where only high-income families can afford to buy a home. For me, the report’s finding signaled cause for concern and action as we look at factors that impact home affordability.

Of course there were some challenging times too where we had to stand up for the well-being of private sector employers and their employees who fuel our economy. As such, we were a strong voice on issues our members care about, including taxes, transportation and workplace regulations. As a board, we worked hard to try to get the city of Portland to a compromise on street maintenance funding, stalling a new personal citywide income tax at the same time. We advocated for employer flexibility while supporting the need to ban the criminal history box on job applications. We advocated for Pembina to set up a pipeline at the Port’s Terminal 6, which would deliver cleaner fuels to developing countries, and we advocated for several other workplace issues to keep job creation as priority number one. Many of these issues remain ongoing, and I look forward to the Alliance having a seat at the table.

With that, I’d like to thank the Alliance board of directors and all of our members for such a successful year. With your ongoing support and involvement, I know we can continue to strengthen our business community and improve our region’s quality of life.

I am leaving the organization in excellent hands with Mitch Hornecker, executive vice president at Howard S. Wright, as the incoming board chair. I look forward to supporting Mitch’s efforts in the coming year.
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