We are quickly approaching the end of the fiscal year, and the end of my term as your board chair. Leading this organization for the past 12 months has been a tremendous opportunity, and one that has helped me see the true value and voice that business has in this community. I’d like to use this column to reflect on our successes over the past year. We made great progress on a number of policy issues, hosted two of the most successful annual events in the organization’s history, released three Value of Jobs studies, launched our Public Service Training Program, and hit our membership growth goal.
Our advocacy efforts the past year have been productive. We helped bring much needed tax relief to the city’s small and family-owned businesses by advocating for Portland City Council to increase the city’s Business License Tax owners compensation deduction to $100,000, which was approved. While still short of the $125,000 level council committed to achieving, it’s great progress. We are now urging Multnomah County to do the same. We also worked with the city to incorporate changes to the paid sick leave ordinance that reduced the recordkeeping burden for small businesses.
We launched our Public Service Training Program this year. This program educates those who have a desire to run for public office or serve on government board or commissions about public policy related to supporting economic growth and job creation, decision-making, leadership, public sector and nonprofit budgeting, fundraising and campaigning. The first class graduated in May, and we are already hearing their success stories. Alando Simpson, vice president of Rose City Disposal & Recycling, was recently appointed to the Oregon Department of Transportation Commission.
Ensuring our region offers quality education opportunities is a big part of our mission as an organization. This year, we played a major role in advocating for some substantial and much-needed changes to the Portland Public School (PPS) Board labor contract. The outcome of the negotiation is already producing positive results, including the early hiring of more than 180 teaching positions in K-12 schools. Additionally on the education front, we had a win at the state level in achieving much needed reform to Oregon’s Public Employment Retirement System. We partnered with the state’s other major business associations to support a package that included $4.6 billion in PERS savings. These savings help put more teachers in classrooms as well as increase school days lost in earlier cutbacks.
Our Value of Jobs campaign continues to grow, and this year we released two studies on growing industries in the Portland-metro area, in addition to our annual economic check-up. Our report on international trade revealed the region’s dependence on this sector, as well as the Portland Harbor’s economic impact and traded-sector activity. The most recent study focused on the healthcare industry and found that this sector delivers services effectively and efficiently compared to other metro areas in the U.S. It also found that the health care industry is growing middle-wage jobs faster than other sectors of the economy.
The work we’ve accomplished this past year exemplifies a dedication to our members, and our focus on growing the region’s economy. According to results from our recent annual membership survey, we are seeing a much better sentiment among members regarding the state of the economy and how they feel their business is doing. Some 60 percent of respondents said their business has grown over the past two years, and 78 percent said they expect their business to be better off next year. We were excited to hear this, and are seeing it translate into growth in this organization. This year, the Alliance hit its membership growth goal of three percent, bringing our total membership to almost 1,800!
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 Debbie Kitchin, owner of InterWorks LLC, as the incoming board chair. Debbie runs a small business, and she has some great energy around this sector. I look forward to supporting her efforts in the coming year.