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From the President & CEO
What happens when the 'City that Works' can't get to work? May 2017
By Jim Mark, Melvin Mark

Portland's Central City is experiencing a record construction boom. This is great news that comes as no surprise to anyone who lives, works or visits our city and it means Portland's global reputation as an attractive place to live and do business continues to expand.

There is good reason to be bullish about Portland's future. Our rapidly changing skyline means there is more room for additional jobs and much needed additional housing supply in order to address affordability issues. While new development means changes we all have to adapt to, it also means opportunity as Portland moves from a second-tier market toward solidifying itself as an alternative preferred location in the Pacific Northwest.

In 2016, Bloomberg cited Oregon's economy as the best performing in the nation, and now a new Development/Redevelopment report by Downtown Clean & Safe shows more active construction projects in the Central City than at any time during the past 15 years. There are 45 office, retail, residential and hotel projects currently under construction right now in the Central City, including in the Central Eastside, Lloyd and lower Burnside districts, with even more on the drawing board.

In addition, this summer, 70 infrastructure expansion and maintenance projects are in the pipeline in the Central City. These include a badly needed upgrade to Pioneer Courthouse Square and scheduled bridge closures for maintenance improvements starting with the Morrison Bridge right now. There are also necessary MAX light rail maintenance projects underway that impact traffic in the Central City.

Such investments will only make Portland's urban core stronger, but there are downsides when multiple construction projects happen at once. Top of that list is increased traffic congestion, and right now Portlanders are being squeezed to a breaking point. As more people and jobs are added to the city, congestion will increase unless there are shifts to other modes of travel. Portland has developed a well-deserved reputation as a multimodal city. With its light rail system, pioneering the return of urban streetcars, extensive network of bikeways and a well-known pedestrian friendly downtown, people far and wide come to learn from Portland's experience.

But a vibrant economy and a high quality of life for all depend on an efficient multimodal transportation that works for all system users; that includes alternative modes of transportation as well as vehicles and freight trucks. It means everyone who uses the system must have a voice in how any proposed changes may — or may not — work for them, their businesses, families and employees. And it means it is imperative for the city to listen to everyone affected, including those who provide good jobs and keep the economy moving through vehicles and freight trucks.

That's why the return of the "Better Naito" project, which has closed one northbound auto lane of Naito Boulevard for a bicycle and pedestrian path, is so puzzling — especially given the significant amount of construction activity and road closures in the central city this year. The traffic impacts are resulting in business delays and reports of complaints from employees.

Bicycling for example, is a great alternative, and one we support, that will work for some. However, it is a less realistic option for many including thousands of people for whom that is not an option because of proximity, health, parenting obligations or a host of other individual circumstances.

When implementing important changes to Portland's transportation system, city leaders must take a more balanced approach and open up public input processes so the needs of individuals are met along with the city's goals to keep Portland economically vibrant.
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Reflecting on what make us uniquely Portland May 2017
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

At the Alliance’s 2017 Annual Meeting, one of the state’s largest gatherings of business, civic and elected leaders, I had the opportunity to reflect on my past year as chair and look toward the future. During the event, we also had the privilege of hearing from several former board chairs about what issues resonated most during their time. We underscored how collaboration is a true hallmark of the Portland spirit and we heard what gives these leaders optimism for the region’s future.

Working together, the business community and elected leaders have tackled many challenges such as economic growth, homelessness and equity. While we still have work to do in each area, it’s the collective desire to roll up our sleeves and get to work, time and time again, that has made Portland a stronger region. Those decades of work also define how the Portland Business Alliance became, and continues to be, the leading voice of business in this region.   

For example, Ron Beltz, 2001 chair, spoke about the organization’s early efforts to find solutions for a rising population of homelessness people, including inviting former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to speak on his experiences at the 2001 Annual Meeting. Ron was absolutely correct when he said that the city was not equipped to handle the need at the time, and while we have more work to do, today we are seeing renewed energy behind public-private sector partnerships as we all search for humane and safe housing solutions. The Menashe family’s Peace shelter, the Bushong building Peace 2 shelter and the new Shleifer building shelter were all opened during the past couple years as temporary shelters due to the business community’s partnership with the city, county and local outreach service providers.   

Another issue critical to this region is international trade. Randy Miller, 1988 chair, and Scott Andrews, 2005 chair, both named trade as key issues during their service. From partnerships formed with Japan to shift from the state’s dependency on the natural resource industry to NAFTA protests at the 2005 Annual Meeting, the business community has always been at the center, advocating for international trade as a cornerstone of the regional economy. While we saw the end of the Trans-Pacific Partnership earlier this year, the Alliance remains dedicated to trade advocacy from awareness campaigns to annual international trade missions.  

At the Annual Meeting, we also reflected on the chamber’s historic transition to include more women and people of color among its leadership. We heard from the first female chair, and the first African American and Asian American chairs - Jackie Babicky, Sam Brooks and Sho Dozono respectively – who discussed issues like small business advocacy, and the Portland community’s collective support for victims and survivors of the 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. Owen Blank, 1992 chair, recalls an institutional commitment during his tenure, to make inclusion and equity a focus, which continues at the Alliance to this day. My role as the board’s fourth female chair is proof that the work continues and must remain an area of intentional focus.

What ties together these issues and more, is the theme of the business community coming to the table to work with local and state government to solve issues that matter to Portlanders and Oregonians alike. When Marty Brantley, 1993 chair, spoke about how strong these relationships were 24 years ago and how government and business each understood what they could do for the economy, it struck me how resilient the fabric of our community can be. While the business community and elected leaders don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue, the Portland Business Alliance remains in a strong position to affect positive change. Not only did businesses come together to put an end to the costly and damaging Measure 97 this past fall, we remain unified today in our efforts at the state level to work with elected leaders to grow the economy, contain unsustainable cost growth, and then make investments with new revenue in targeted outcomes that Oregonians want and deserve in order to ensure a brighter future. Find out more about this latest effort at

If you weren’t able to attend this year’s meeting, you can view some favorite moments from the event and watch our event videos to hear more comments from our past chairs.
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Oregon has a spending problem April 2017
By Jim Mark, Melvin Mark

State budget challenges are nothing new to Oregon. It seems we have spent the last two decades or more trying to balance budgets and ensure sufficient revenue to fund schools and other important public services.

We are at it again this year, as the state Legislature tries to figure out how to deal with a $1.6 billion budget shortfall. The easy answer is simply "get more money." But, as is so often the case, the easy answer isn't necessarily the right or complete choice. Yes, we may need more money to fund outcomes we all want, like improved high school graduation rates and college affordability. But we also need to make sure the state is getting the right value for the money taxpayers are already investing in state services.

Since 2011, Oregon revenues have grown almost 40 percent, a pace unmatched by almost any other state. That increase is the result of economic growth in Oregon as our economy roared back from the recession. Our first order of business must be to foster more growth because, at the end of the day, building a strong economy, with quality jobs for Oregonians, is the best way to grow public revenues.

But even with that growth we have budget problems because government costs are growing faster than the new revenues. Analysis done for the Brighter Oregon coalition, the advocacy arm of the Oregon Business Plan, shows that Oregon suffers from a structural budget deficit. Revenue is increasing year over year, but certain costs, including some related to employee compensation, are growing at such rapid rates they undermine not only the state budget but also the budgets of local governments and school districts across Oregon. Left unchecked, this problem will plague Oregonians for a decade or more.

A prime example of a program with runaway costs is the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). Although that system was revamped in 2003, legacies of the old system continue to plague government coffers. Today, PERS costs amount to 18 percent of payroll for public entities, and that is expected to grow to 30 percent of payroll by 2021.

PERS costs plague state budgets, but they are also passed through to local governments. Portland Public Schools, for example, has reported a $16 million shortfall for next school year. Of that, $8.5 million can be attributed to increases in the district's PERS-related costs, or enough to pay for 85 additional teachers.

The PERS story is familiar, but it is not the only one. The Eugene Register Guard recently took an extensive look at public employee health care benefits and found that they are far more costly than benefits offered in other states, including Washington and California.

In fact, Oregon's public employee health care benefits cost as much as 150 percent of the national average for similar programs. If the costs were at the national average, the savings would be $700 million for the next two-year budget cycle. $700 million, almost half of the state's projected budget deficit, or enough to pay for 3,500 additional teachers per year in the two-year budget cycle or 14 additional school days per year.

The Brighter Oregon coalition is asking state leaders to look at these costs and others to see if there is a way to slow the expense growth so that more money can be devoted to the outcomes Oregonians want, like better high school graduation rates. We are advocating for a balanced approach; everyone must share the responsibility of addressing the state's fiscal challenge.

Yes, we think cost growth must be slowed, and that will require representatives of public employees to consider changes to compensation and benefit systems. On our side, business needs to be willing to talk about how it will be part of the solution, including being ready to talk seriously about new revenue for targeted outcomes.

Yes, I am talking about new taxes. The Brighter Oregon coalition has told state leaders we are ready to go to the table to talk about new taxes, including taxes paid by business, when and if we have assurance that the runaway costs impacting the state budget are brought under control. When we talk about shared responsibility, we know that includes us.

We have spent too many years in Oregon worrying about budget challenges. It is time to fix this problem once and for all, and that will take all of us working together. I am proud that the business community has stepped up to create a conversation, and I am confident that we can make the progress Oregonians want.

Jim Mark is CEO of Melvin Mark Companies and is chair-elect of the Portland Business Alliance board of directors. The Portland Business Alliance is a part of the Brighter Oregon coalition. Send feedback to:
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Be a part of the next Leadership Portland class April 2017
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

Earlier in my career as broadcast professional who moved often around the country, I made a point in every new location to learn everything I could about how that region worked. To be the best leader I could be, I wanted to understand how I could have an impact on the regional issues that affected the economy and how local government and civic programs enhanced the community, and I always sought to establish meaningful relationships with other professionals. I did the same when I first arrived in Portland in 2007. For other professionals who are taking on leadership roles within their own careers, I highly recommend the Alliance’s Leadership Portland program, which is currently accepting applications for its class of 2018.

Leadership Portland broadens the perspectives of business professionals on the most critical challenges facing our region while also providing them with the opportunity to give back through the program's community Impact Projects. Each year, a diverse group of professionals, from nonprofits and small businesses to large corporations, are selected to participate in a nine-month program that helps them gain an increased awareness of how the business, government and community sectors work together to achieve common goals.

Additionally, participants develop advanced skills in team management, critical and creative thinking, and problem solving by being placed in small groups to complete an Impact Project, which fulfills a short-term objective for a local nonprofit.

If you are interested in applying for the upcoming class, please submit an application, headshot, bio, resume and two letters of recommendation by Friday, April 21. Letters of recommendation must include one from an employer and one from a community organization that you are involved in. The Alliance particularly wishes to enhance the diversity of informed and engaged business leaders throughout the region, so women and people from underserved populations are encouraged to apply.

For more information on the program, visit If you have any questions, please contact Leadership Portland’s program director, Mari Watanabe by email at or by phone at 503.552.6775.
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Join us for our largest event of the year March 2017
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

Every year, the Alliance’s Annual Meeting provides our community with a great opportunity to celebrate the past year’s accomplishments and identify the work that remains ahead of us. It also gives many of us a chance to connect with new and old colleagues. My favorite part of the event, however, is recognizing the tremendous efforts of our board, our members and volunteers.

The 2017 Annual Meeting is scheduled for May 2, from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m. at the Oregon Convention Center. I hope you will join me at this year’s event.

More than 1,000 business and civic leaders come together for this event, the largest business gathering in the state. I’m personally looking forward to hearing from this year’s keynote speaker, Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters and a former U.S. Senator from Oregon. I’ve known Sen. Smith for years and, in a time when honest and thorough communications from the media are more vital than ever, I cannot wait to hear his thoughts about the evolution of the media and broadcasting industry, and how information delivery is evolving in our society. He’s also sure to bring us some interesting insights on what’s happening in Washington, D.C., where he still lives and works.  

In addition to the keynote address, each year, we present a number of individuals with awards, including the Volunteer Awards, the Community Partner Award and the prestigious President’s Award, to thank them for their outstanding dedication. This year, we have the honor of presenting the Community Partner Award to Ed Blackburn, executive director of Central City Concern, and the President’s Award to Don Krahmer, shareholder and partner at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, and a long-time member of the Alliance Board of Directors. Congratulations to Ed and Don on these well-deserved honors.

This and much more is in store for you at the 2017 Annual Meeting. Tickets and tables are on sale now on the Alliance’s website, but don’t wait. Spots are selling out quickly, so make sure you secure your seat for our most anticipated event of the year! I look forward to seeing you there.
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Alliance members lead community response to mental health care crisis February 2017
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

After years in the making, the Unity Center for Behavioral Health opened its doors to the public late last month.

Located at 1225 N.E. Second Avenue, the center offers 24-hour emergency psychiatric services and ongoing treatment plans to those experiencing any kind of mental health crisis. The facility has beds for 80 adults and 22 adolescents age 9 to 18, and it brings a much-needed alternative for regional law enforcement officials and hospital emergency room staff, who for decades have been on the front lines in responding to these crises with limited resources.  

On behalf of the Alliance community, I would like to extend a sincere ‘thank you’ to our members who helped make the Unity center possible: Legacy Health, Adventist Health, Kaiser Permanente Northwest and Oregon Health & Science University. These leading regional health care providers collaborated to create the $40 million facility, which is the first of its kind in the northwest.

Through our Portland Can Do Better campaign, the Alliance has been advocating for more mental health care services, a separate but related issue to homelessness. While exact figures are not available, a 2015 Point in Time Report that covers Portland, Gresham and Multnomah County, reveals that a high percentage of the regional homeless population would likely qualify as having a mental health disability.

One doesn’t have to look hard to see this unfortunate reality playing out in public. If you’ve seen men, women and youth in our community in the middle of a crisis of mental health or addiction, you know how unsafe it can feel for those experiencing the emergency and for those who witness it.   

Unity offers real, long-term solutions. After immediate evaluation, stabilization and a plan for after discharge, outreach workers will help patients connect with treatment and resources like housing and job assistance, legal aid, addiction treatment and family counseling.

Unity is a great example of how a regional community can come together to solve a major public health challenge once managed and funded at the federal level. This also shows what’s possible when public and private sectors come together and combine expertise and resources to benefit the common good.

The center began with a transformational gift from the Robert D. and Marcia H. Randall Charitable Trust and will continue to operate through public-sector partnerships and private-sector donations. While the new facility is extensive, the need is vast and ongoing.

If you would like to donate, or if you see or know of someone experiencing a behavioral or mental health crisis, please contact the Unity center at 503-944-8000 or visit their web site at
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The state of prosperity in the region January 2017
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

The Portland area economy is prospering, but not everyone in the region is sharing equally in this prosperity. That is a main message from the Value of Jobs Coalition’s 2016 Economic Check-Up released in December. In case you haven’t seen the report, I encourage you to take a look at

This annual look at our region’s economic health reveals some continued good news, but some troubling trends about the kind of metropolitan area we are becoming. An important question now sits in front of us: How do we make sure that all residents of this region, regardless of their address or ethnic background, have access to better jobs and, subsequently, greater family incomes?

This is the seventh annual Economic Check-Up by the Value of Jobs Coalition – a partnership between the Alliance and other business associations. The report originally began in 2010 to better understand how the region stacked up against other metro areas in terms of job growth and family incomes. Each year, the report demonstrates trends that we as a community need to focus on and it drives much of the Alliance policy agenda in terms of private-sector job growth and retention.    

Looking at this year’s report, in 2016 Portland-metro grew 33,700 new jobs, with significant gains in the construction sector. Productivity went up, and for the first time in years, household incomes rose across the wage spectrum by 5.9 percent at the median.

Yet, despite this welcome news, Portland-metro’s Median Household Income (MHI) still remains below pre-recession levels and affordability remains a concern, particularly housing affordability. The report found that for the first time, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Portland, at $1,280 a month plus utility expenses, is out of reach for families who earn 100 percent or less of the region’s Median Family Income. In fact, housing has become so unaffordable that the average one-bedroom apartment in Portland, Gresham and Beaverton are all out of reach for families making 60 percent of MFI. Low- to medium-income earners are becoming more and more vulnerable to displacement as people move further out in search of a home they can afford.

Another troubling trend uncovered in this year’s report is that income gains are not shared equally across the region. At $101,212, Camas, Wash., has a MHI that is double that of Gresham; and the Portland’s MHI is $60,082, just below the regional average. Additionally, the report showed that communities of color are not equally sharing in the prosperity. While White, Asian and Hispanic/Latino households recovered income losses experienced during the recession, African American household incomes continued to lag, ending 2015 with a MHI that was 8 percent less than a decade earlier.

When the region’s core becomes less affordable and workers must live further from job centers, there can be a profound impact over time on economic mobility, and commuting costs shift to those who can least afford it; not to mention, additional road congestion and wear and tear.

As you’ll see in the report, Portland is booming, but not without significant growth, affordability and equity challenges to address. At the Alliance, we hold firm to a belief that growing and maintaining quality family-wage jobs must remain a top priority when tacking these issues. This includes access to opportunity through educational outcomes, workforce training, investing in the transportation system or other initiatives.

The Alliance Board is committed to working with leaders in the public and private sectors to find solutions to these challenges. I know we are all in this together, so I want to thank you for everything you do as business leaders, every day to lift the economy and help generate opportunities for everyone.   
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Government leadership is needed to solve Oregon's fiscal problems December 2016
By Jim Mark, Melvin Mark

In November, voters rejected Measure 97, a costly and damaging $6 billion tax proposal that would have hurt Oregon consumers and small businesses and sent billions of dollars to state government without any guarantee for how the money would be spent.

Now that voters have made clear that Measure 97 was the wrong answer to the state's budget issues, the hard work must begin to address some very real problems that threaten our state's prosperity and livability. At the Portland Business Alliance, where I am chair-elect of the board, we agree and we are ready to be part of the conversation, led by our state's elected leaders.

Oregon does have a financial crisis; understanding the nature of that crisis is critical to developing a sustainable, durable solution for the future. State revenues have increased by more than 40 percent since the 2009-2011 biennium, but costs have grown faster, resulting in a projected deficit of $1.7 billion for the 2017-2019 state budget cycle. With voters wisely saying no to Measure 97, the question becomes where do we go from here?

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the costly battle that was Measure 97, but one stands out for me: Voters want elected leaders to lead. Poorly written proposals driven by one special interest group lead to fights, not solutions, and 59 percent of voters said a resounding "no" to that kind of approach on Election Day. In my view, this is a clear signal that elected leaders need to drive a process that brings a broad array of interests to the table to work collaboratively on a plan that we can all get behind — even if we all have to be open to compromise and negotiation to get there.

The Portland Business Alliance joins with our partners from across Oregon to unite behind the Oregon Business Plan, our blueprint for statewide economic vitality. At the Leadership Summit earlier this month, we unveiled the goals of the 2017 Business Plan, and key themes were how we bring together interests in this state to address the fiscal challenges ahead. They were:

Maintain strong economic growth. We are seeing job growth in Portland-metro and across Oregon, and we know strong jobs that can support families are the best path to economic vitality. And it is the best way to fill government coffers. In an income-tax-dependent state like Oregon, more jobs mean more revenue for such important programs as education and health care. We must stay focused on job creation and retention as the top priority in our strategy for ensuring our state's fiscal health.

Slow the unsustainable growth in the cost of government. We have seen the impact of letting costs get out of control. Even with growing revenue, there isn't enough money to balance the state's budget because of rising expenses. Costs related to the state's Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) are expected to eat up a growing share of the new revenues our economy is producing, which means there is less money for efforts like reducing class size and boosting graduation rates. For school districts alone, the increased PERS obligations will amount to an inflation adjusted $600 per student statewide, which is the equivalent of 14 days of school. Oregon courts have told us what we can't do to reform PERS, but they also have shown an achievable path to cost containment, and we must move forward with that. We need to manage costs and start tying funding allocations to outcomes. Let's focus on what works to get Oregonians the results they want and deserve from state and local governments.

And, lastly, adjust the tax code to improve revenue stability and generate more revenue for investment in health care, improved education outcomes and more opportunity for Oregon kids to go to college. Yes, I am saying we are open to talking about new taxes so long as we know they will be invested well and be accompanied by real spending reform that addresses the unsustainable growth in government costs.

Oregon's top business leaders stood up at the Leadership Summit and endorsed a strategy that included all three of the components I have listed here. The Portland Business Alliance will be with them at the table to work on a plan that serves all of Oregon and that gets broad support from a wide variety of interest groups.

It will be hard work and it will require leaders with the strength and dedication to drive a conversation that includes parties that fought bitterly just a few months before. But that is what needs to happen. So when the state's elected leaders call us to that table, we will be ready to go, ready to talk and ready to do what's right for Oregon.
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Head downtown for the holidays! December 2016
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

With the holiday season in full swing, I always look forward to heading downtown to peruse the local shops and enjoy the city during the most festive time of year. A recent census by Downtown Clean & Safe shows downtown employment and businesses are continuing to grow, so it’s a great time to check out our vibrant, bustling urban core.
In early November, the Portland Business Alliance launched a holiday campaign as part of the city-funded Downtown Marketing Program. Through the month of December, the campaign showcases downtown Portland as a holiday wonderland, highlighting the 750 beautifully lit trees on 63 blocks, including a special installation of snowflake lights on Yamhill and Morrison between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. There’s also Free Parking Sundays, Dec. 4, 11 and 18, and local entrepreneurs participating in the PDX Pop-Up Shop program.
The PDX Pop-Up Shops have become a holiday favorite. Every year the program features local up-and-coming businesses that “set up shop” in vacant retail space for the season. Not only does the program offer businesses the opportunity to showcase their work, but it has also served as the launching pad for permanent shops from past participants like Bridge and Burn, Crafty Wonderland and Boys Fort.
This year’s program just might be the best with participants Faith Hats, which offers reclaimed luxury cashmere sweaters, hats and scarves; Via Raiz, which is dedicated to modern Mexican craftsmanship of jewelry, textiles and homewares; Blanchet House of Hospitality, which offers quality wood products including Adirondack chairs produced by men in its recovery program, and Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO), which supports diverse small businesses through opportunities of empowerment, education and entrepreneurship. This is MESO’s first-ever retail shop. All of the Pop-Up Shops are open through Dec. 24, Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m., and all are located at 606 SW Ninth Ave.
Finally, I want to take a moment to plug a program that is dear to my own company – the KGW Great Toy Drive. There are a lot of families struggling to make ends meet, so please consider helping them provide a great holiday for their kids by dropping off a new, unwrapped toys at the KGW studios or with any Toy Drive partners.
And don’t forget to join the conversation and share any of your downtown holiday pictures on social media with the hashtags #downtownPDX and #PDXPopUpShops. I hope you and your loved ones all have a wonderful holiday season and have a happy New Year!
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Collaboration and creativity define our community November 2016
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

Collaboration and creativity were consistent themes of the evening at the Alliance’s 2016 Business Leadership Evening event, held Nov. 1 at the Portland Art Museum. I look forward to this Alliance signature event every year given the focus on celebrating the role business plays in building a strong community, and this year’s event, with keynoter Dr. George Brown of Legacy Health, lived up to my expectations.
It was a privilege to host the event from the stage this year as we recognized one of our exceptional community leaders with the William S. Naito Outstanding Service Award. This year, the award recipient was Charles Wilhoite, managing director at Willamette Management Associates and a former Alliance board chair. I couldn’t have been more proud to give him the honor.    
Like many honorees before him, Charles embodies the spirit of this award, named after the late Bill Naito, who left a legacy as one of our city’s most civic-minded business leaders.
Those lucky enough to call Charles a friend, and there are many of you out there, know him as a quiet driver of change, a force for economic growth and a pillar of values in the community. He is also known as someone who works for equity and diversity in everything he does.
His footprint on the region is broad in his extensive commitments to education, health care, economic development and diversity. In addition to the Alliance, Charles has chaired the Portland Development Commission, Oregon Health & Science University, SMART – Start Making a Reader Today – and the Urban League of Portland boards. Currently, he chairs the Meyer Memorial Trust board of directors and has given time to the Federal Reserve Bank, the Nature Conservancy, the Legacy Health board, the Oregon State Bar and the Portland State University Foundation.
I’ve been on the Alliance board with Charles for many years, and I can tell you that in addition to his wicked sense of humor and a great sense of style, he is analytical, generous, kind and well respected in every corner of our community. For proof, just check out the evening’s hashtag on Twitter: #imwithcharles.
And, thanks to Charles, we had an intriguing keynote speaker for the Leadership Evening dinner: Dr. George Brown, president and CEO of Legacy Health. Dr. Brown spoke to two of the most pressing challenges facing our community: our housing and homelessness crises.  
Portland’s health care community has emerged with an extremely thoughtful and generous response to these issues. In January, Legacy Health in collaboration with Adventist Health, Kaiser Permanente and Oregon Health & Science University, will open the Unity Center for Behavioral Health, a patient-centered care facility for adolescents and adults experiencing mental health or behavioral challenges. The center has attracted top talent to the region and will be a welcome resource in our community, addressing a critical need we see around us every day.
In addition, just a few weeks ago Legacy, Kaiser, Providence, OHSU, Adventist and CareOregon, together donated a stunning $21.5 million towards developing affordable housing with Central City Concern. After deftly connecting the dots between access to mental health care, access to affordable housing, employment and the overall health of our community, Dr. Brown summed up the sentiment of these six amazing health care institutions with a simple phrase, “it was the right thing to do.” And he noted that collaboration makes a community stronger. Dr. Brown and Legacy are definitely examples of that!
It’s events like Business Leadership Evening that truly highlight the importance of partnerships between the business and civic community. For me, I will remember that the evening highlighted two of our community’s most imperative values: that we can and will be creative about how we tackle challenging problems, and that collaboration makes us stronger.
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Will Measure 97 weaken a great community asset: Oregon’s business leaders? October 2016
By Past Chairs of the Portland Business Alliance

Phil and Penny Knight contributed $500 million to fund cancer research at Oregon Health & Science University and now another $500 million to fund scientific research at the University of Oregon. The Knight’s first gift to OHSU was a challenge that was met by the community. Their second gift to the U of O comes after a $10 million gift to the university in February by Columbia Sportswear owner and CEO Tim Boyle and his wife Mary. What are the effects of these gifts long term? Treatments for cancer and scientific research, new innovations with new buildings to house them, new brains to drive the ideas, and new hope to fuel the vision by bringing people together to further a common cause.

Hopefully our Legislature will recognize the U of O’s request for $100 million in bonds to help pay for one of the buildings so the 10:1 private philanthropy to public monetary investment can be capitalized and the dreams of the center achieved; dreams that include a hub of innovation and entrepreneurism for the region, producing an estimated 750 new jobs and a better community.

If the center is realized, public-private partnerships working as they should to bring a powerful vision and assets to achieve a common goal, will again be celebrated, and the business sector will rally to make it work with their time and talent as they have done countless times before. Witness the announcement this week of Ed and Cyndy Maletis’ $5 million gift to the University of Oregon business school.

Before you vote on Ballot Measure 97, think about the contributions made by the community asset called the business sector. Is our vision of cooperation and common good being furthered or weakened by this measure? Give it some thought – it affects everyone’s future.

Please join us in voting no on 97.

Oh, and thanks Phil and Tim for starting your companies in Oregon, growing them in Oregon, staying in Oregon and attracting the industries your companies compete against to migrate to Oregon. We salute your vision and talent, and we deeply appreciate it.

Signed by past chairs of the Portland Business Alliance board of directors

Scott Andrews
Jackie Babicky-Peterson
Ron Beltz
Owen Blank
Marty Brantley
Stuart Hall
J. Clayton Hering
Steven Holwerda
Mitch Hornecker
Philip Kalberer
Gregg Kantor
Debbie Kitchin
Kenneth Novack
Judy Peppler
Pat Prendergast
Dennis Rawlinson
Jim Rudd
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How you can help today’s students become tomorrow’s business leaders October 2016
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

At the Alliance, we believe in the critical connection between an educated workforce and economic growth. We know that a quality education for students is key to growing regional talent that can help attract, support and retain private-sector jobs. We’ve also seen in Value of Jobs reports that workers in the Portland-metro area with a college degree or higher have experienced real wage growth during the last 30 years, while wages for those with a high school diploma or some college have largely remained stagnant.
How then can we grow business leaders while helping more students in Oregon realize the dream of a four-year college degree? The Alliance consistently advocates for the right policies and initiatives that make higher education accessible to many, at the legislature and locally, evidenced by our support for funding measures for both Portland Community College and Mt. Hood Community College, as well as our ongoing work with four-year universities, including Portland State. In the meantime, there is an opportunity for every Alliance member to make a difference for a few students studying business today.
Starting this month, we are kicking off a crowdfunding effort for the Alliance’s Chair’s Scholarship, and we need your help! In your next annual dues invoice, you will see an optional line item of $10 to support the Chair’s Scholarship program.   
Since 1905, the Portland Chamber of Commerce has awarded student scholarships and the Chair’s Scholarship is a part of that tradition. The Chair’s Scholarship offers financial assistance to students in business-related fields through Oregon higher education institutions. Every year, the receiving school is determined by the outgoing board chair. I’m humbled to say that this year I will have that honor, but only if we can raise the funds to make it happen.
The Chair’s Scholarship was created in 2010 to honor Charles Wilhoite, managing director of Willamette Management Associates, as he stepped down as chair of the Alliance board. Charles is a passionate believer in higher education, and the board knew that creating a scholarship fund as his “thank you” gift for chairing the board would mean a lot to him. The board members themselves funded the scholarship and there was so much enthusiasm for the program that the board decided to make funding the scholarship program an annual tradition to honor the outgoing chair. Students at Portland State and the University of Oregon have benefited from the fund, and we want to not only keep the tradition going but to make it bigger by involving more members in the fundraising effort.
It is particularly fitting that all of this started under Charles Wilhoite’s leadership at the
Alliance because next month we are honoring him with the  William S. Naito Award for Outstanding Service at our annual Business Leadership Evening event. Charles has had a tremendous impact on our community, and I look forward to saluting him at this signature Alliance event. I hope you all will be part of our Chair’s Scholarship fund.
We will make it easy for you. All you have to do is check the box on your dues invoice, and we will add $10 to your bill. But any amount will be appreciated. Contributions to the Chair’s Scholarship will be administered by the Portland Business Alliance Charitable Alliance and, therefore, will be tax deductible.
Questions? Call Rebecca McCullough at 503.552.6759 or
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Scholarship promotes small businesses and job growth; apply Sept. 16 September 2016
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

The beginning of fall marks a new season of great programs and networking opportunities at the Alliance. An important part of our mission has long been to provide future and current business leaders with access to quality educational opportunities, and this year we’ve got a great scholarship program that does just that. 

Applications will open on Friday, Sept. 16, for the Small Business Management Scholarship Program. With more than 80 percent of the Alliance membership comprised of small businesses, we understand the important role these companies play in helping the Portland regional economy thrive and grow jobs. 

This 10-month training program began in 2010 as a partnership between the Alliance and Portland Community College’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). It provides experienced small business owners with an opportunity to grow in both revenue and employees. Topics covered include sourcing capital and financing, marketing and financial management, and exploring international markets.

In an effort to promote small business and job growth, the Alliance offers scholarships to 12 small businesses per year for this program. Businesses will be responsible for only $500 of the $2,500 course tuition. Recipients also will receive a two-year small business level membership to the Alliance valued at $1,640 for a total scholarship package valued at $4,140.

From 2011 to 2015, 59 out of 60 small businesses successfully completed the course. Those same program graduates have added a total of 56 full-time jobs and 68 part-time jobs to the local economy and have achieved sales growth of more than $5.5 million. For more information on how to apply or to learn more about the benefits of participating, please contact Rebecca McCulloch at

This scholarship is made possible through a generous partnership with Bank of America, which continues to demonstrate its commitment to small businesses. Check out other programs designed for small businesses on the Alliance website here.
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Honoring Portland’s glass ceiling breakers: Marilyn Clint and Bank of America August 2016
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

With the first woman in United States history receiving a major party nomination for the presidency, there has been a lot of attention placed on breaking the glass ceiling. Here in Portland, preparations are underway for the Alliance’s own opportunity to recognize women and companies who are doing the same.

Now in its fifth year, A Place With No Ceiling is an annual Alliance signature event that celebrates one female executive and one company who mentor, support and advance women in the business community. Honorees are nominated by peers and selected by a committee of Alliance members based on a specific set of judging criteria. At the 2016 event, set for Sept. 29, Marilyn Clint, COO and director of events and communications at the Portland Rose Festival, and Bank of America will both be honored for their continual efforts to advance women in business.

I was very fortunate to be honored with the first A Place With No Ceiling award back in 2012. It is one of the most meaningful recognitions I have ever received. I am proud of my work in broadcasting, but when I look back over my career, I’m even more proud of the part I have played in opening new career doors for other women, just as women who went before me opened them for my generation. I was thrilled that the Alliance has an event specifically aimed at honoring women’s leadership in our community, and this year’s recipients – Marilyn Clint and Bank of America – clearly embody the values we want to foster.

Marilyn Clint will receive the individual award for her long-time mentorship and incorporation of innovative programs for young women in the Rose Festival. Programs, such as Living History, inspire women to explore different careers from a young age by highlighting accomplished working women throughout history.

Bank of America was selected to receive the company award because of its continued efforts to advance women in the banking industry. With more than half of its workforce comprised of women, Bank of America offers support and mentorship to female employees through business forums, employee networks and its Neighborhood Builders program.   

The initial A Place With No Ceiling gathering drew more than 300 attendees, and today we routinely gather such a crowd at the Oregon Historical Society’s Terrace, a beautiful event space that appropriately has no ceiling. We owe our gratitude to Lori Flexer of Ferguson Wellman Capital Management, who came up with the idea for this event after recognizing a need to celebrate what women in the Portland business community have accomplished, and what companies are doing to support and grow their female employees. Lori just stepped off the Alliance board, and A Place With No Ceiling will be a lasting legacy of her service to the organization.

This annual gathering also wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of my fellow Alliance board member Tracie Murphy of Moda Health, who has chaired the event committee since 2013. Tracie does a great job every year of making sure we include women from all aspects of Portland’s business and civic life.

When we held that first event in 2012, we noted that it was the 100th anniversary of the right to vote for Oregon women. Indeed, the history of Oregon, and the history of business in Oregon, cannot be told without the achievements, contributions and sacrifices of many women through the years. A Place With No Ceiling gives us a chance to look back and celebrate this year’s honorees as well as those who have come before us. And now the rest of the nation is joining us in recognizing that there are ceilings to be shattered.

I encourage you to attend, or consider being a sponsor, as a way to recognize Oregon’s exceptional women leaders. The event takes place on Friday, Sept. 29, at the Oregon Historical Society. It is open to the public and tickets are available for purchase. Book soon. This will event will be a sell-out.

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Key issues will have big impact on economy; small businesses July 2016
By DJ Wilson, KGW Media Group

DJ Wilson, president and general manager of KGW Media Group is the new 2016-17 chair of the Alliance board of directors.

I hope you all are enjoying another beautiful summer in Portland. I am thrilled this month to step in as chair of the Alliance Board of Directors. My first official task is to thank Chair Emeritus Mitch Hornecker for his steadfast leadership through, arguably, one of our busiest years in recent memory.
I plan to pick up the torch and, along with the board and Alliance staff, will continue to advocate on key issues where the outcome could have a significant impact on regional jobs and economic growth; especially for small businesses who comprise approximately 80 percent of our membership.
Topping that list right now are the Initiative Petition 28 (IP28) tax proposal, the Portland Harbor Superfund cleanup plan, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). We also will continue advocating for better solutions to housing affordability and homelessness, which continue to impact regional livability.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a good look at IP28. This proposed $6 billion tax on Oregon sales is headed to the November ballot and is the largest tax increase in state history. While the tax would be imposed on C-Corps with over $25 million in Oregon sales, it is expected to hit consumers and small businesses particularly hard in pass through costs. Learn more and sign on to the coalition at Defeat the Tax on Oregon Sales.
After more than a decade of planning, there are now 56 days left to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) $758 million cleanup plan for the Portland Harbor Superfund site, and we need your voice. The Alliance has formed a coalition to say the EPA must take a balanced approach. Until Sept. 6, you can go to Healthy River, Healthy Economy and tell them that any plan must support public health and wildlife while protecting local jobs, small businesses and the economy.
Another proposal with broad, local economic impact is the TPP, which is awaiting ratification in Congress. The TPP is a proposed trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 nations in the Pacific Rim, who already are valuable trading partners. In fact, 44 percent of Oregon’s goods exports in 2014 went to TPP nations, and 88 percent of the Oregon companies exporting to these countries were small or medium-sized companies. The TPP has the potential to bring even greater opportunity to our region. Learn more at the Alliance’s website, Trade in Oregon.
Finally, this month we will restart the engine of our Portland Can Do Better campaign, calling for humane solutions to homelessness. We are encouraged by Multnomah County’s new shelter sites in Gresham, SE Portland, Sellwood and NE Portland. We also look forward to working closely with Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler to identify better options than camping. Let’s thank elected officials for the good work and encourage them to keep the focus on better solutions at Portland Can Do Better.
Being in the news business, I’m particularly passionate about helping you stay informed on these and other important issues. Make sure you’ve signed up for newsletters from the Alliance’s main website and follow the Alliance on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. These are the best ways to stay up-to-the-minute on issues we care about and to find out about networking opportunities, programs, resources and member deals.
Speaking of networking, make sure you take full advantage of the more than 150 events the Alliance hosts each year. I’m looking forward to our fall lineup, which includes Governor Kate Brown at our September Breakfast Forum, Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler at our October Breakfast Forum and three signature Alliance events: Golf Scramble, A Place With No Ceiling, and Business Leadership Evening. I hope to see you there!
Leading this organization is an honor, and I look forward to working with all of you over the next year as we continue to support commerce, community health and the region’s overall prosperity.
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Tax battles, our homeless crisis and a new mayor; the end of an eventful year June 2016
By Mitch Hornecker

On June 30, I will reach the end of my term as your board chair. It has been an honor to lead this organization over the past 12 months, which I believe have been among the most active for the Alliance in quite a while. We should all be proud of what we have accomplished together this year. I want to highlight six particular areas of effort:

Economic prosperity. Let’s celebrate a booming economy. In the sixth annual Value of Jobs Economic Check-up report, published in December, we found that Portland-metro had not only recovered all of the jobs lost in the Great Recession, but we were actually growing new jobs.

Our biggest piece of unfinished business is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We applauded the passage of the federal Trade Promotion Authority in 2015 and are now advocating for ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership which, for a trade-dependent and Asia-facing state like Oregon, will translate to job growth.

Housing and homelessness: Since our Value of Jobs Middle Income report was published last year, housing affordability and availability have become key concerns for Portlanders, and we have helped make it top of mind for elected leaders, as the discourse in May’s primary elections clearly indicated. As you know, we have continued to advocate that Portland is woefully short of emergency shelter beds as well as long-term low- and middle-income housing.  We continue to insist that Portlanders expect better options than sleeping outside for this very vulnerable population.

We were happy to see that addressing the city’s homeless crisis was the top priority for Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler’s campaign this spring. The Alliance endorsed Wheeler and we look forward to working with him on this issues and other important matters facing the city.

Transportation investments. We endorsed the 10-cent city gas tax that was recently approved by voters in May. While this tax won’t generate all the money that is needed to fix Portland’s streets, it is a start. Thank you to Commissioner Novick for his leadership on the issue.

Tax proposals. A couple of tax proposals to mention. First, IP28: this very damaging gross receipts tax proposal will appear on the Oregon ballot in November. The Alliance has joined forces with partners across the state to oppose the $6 billion measure and to ensure that Oregon voters understand that, it passed, they will end up footing the bill in the form of higher prices for food, medicine, utilities, insurance and much more. If you haven’t joined the campaign to defeat this bad proposal, please go to to learn more.

Second, we avoided a potentially damaging payroll tax ballot measure fight with one of our strongest allies, Portland State University. I want to say thank you to the PSU Board, PSU Foundation and President Wiewel who worked with us to avoid an unnecessary ballot measure fight. We will be working together over the next couple of years on a joint effort to see how we can improve access and reduce the cost of higher education in Oregon.

Advocacy. Over the last several years, we have worked hard on expanding and improving the impact of our advocacy. Over a year ago, Debbie Kitchin, D.J. Wilson, Jim Mark and I got together and agreed to pursue a consistent strategy over multiple chairs’ terms. We have met regularly as a group and with other board members and Alliance staff and have charted a path that includes a heightened focus on social media. This resulted in the launch in July 2015 of an outreach campaign, called “Portland Can Do Better,” designed to activate our membership and propel non-members into joining the discussion – enlarging our voice and influence. Our social media strategy is designed to complement our face to face advocacy. While we continue to monitor the effect of this campaign, the early returns are extremely positive and I expect social media will be a permanent part of our advocacy tool box going forward. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our amazing CEO, Sandi McDonough, and her excellent staff.  Sandi combines tenaciousness with the best political instincts I have ever had the pleasure to work with.  Sandi’s staff is incredibly dedicated to our mission and they all punch above their weight. 

Finally, I would like to thank you, our members, the Alliance board of directors and the board’s executive committee, for supporting me and for caring about our community’s vitality. More than ever, the Alliance is a strong voice for business in the greater Portland- metropolitan area. With your ongoing support and involvement, we can keep the focus right where it needs to be to maintain a healthy business community and a great quality of life.

I am leaving the organization in excellent hands with DJ Wilson, president and general manager of KGW Media Group, as the incoming board chair. I know you will join me in supporting her in the coming year.
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It is time for everyone to demand better solutions from our elected leaders May 2016
By Mitch Hornecker

At this year’s Annual Meeting, the theme “Portland takes flight” reflected real optimism for Portland-metro’s economic future. But we also talked about challenges facing the region, most notably homelessness and housing affordability. The opportunities and challenges ahead are captured in our event video as well as in this excerpt from comments made by Portland Business Alliance board chair Mitch Hornecker during the event.
At our annual meeting, we typically pause a moment and reflect on the last 12 months.
What a year! As our annual meeting theme suggests, the big message is that the Portland-metro economy appears to be taking off.
In our sixth Value of Jobs Economic Check Up, published last December, the Alliance documented that Portland-metro’s economy has more than recovered the jobs we lost in the Great Recession, and job numbers continue to be strong. The region’s unemployment rate is less than 5 percent, and, thanks largely to the electronics industry, our productivity numbers – the regional GDP – ranks near the top for regions globally.
All good news. Great news, in fact.  However, about a year ago, the Alliance published another report with two significant take-aways.
In our Middle Income Jobs report, we documented how Portland-metro, like many regions across the country, has lost middle-income jobs as a percentage of our overall workforce. What this means is that those jobs we have gained back since the Great Recession are overwhelming upper- and lower-wage jobs – with middle-wage jobs trailing significantly.
In our report, we also looked at housing and found a startling reality: To be able to purchase a home in most of the city of Portland, a family would have to earn $70,000 a year, which means most middle-income families in Portland are currently priced out of the American dream of home ownership for the first time since World War II. 
The bottom line: The loss of middle-income jobs combined with rising housing costs is having a devastating impact on working families.
In the year since we published our report, the issue of home affordability – even home availability – has moved to front and center of our regional psyche. A recent poll of Portland-metro residents showed the majority of respondents - 42 percent - believe homelessness and housing/affordable housing are the top issues the city should focus on, outranking transportation and education in importance.
With approximately 700 people moving to our region every month, Portland-metro suffers from a lack of housing inventory at nearly every point of the affordability scale in both the ‘for sale’ and ‘for rent’ markets.
Not surprisingly, this problem is felt most acutely at the middle and lower ends of the scale. Rising costs for both rentals and ownership means families are moving out further from the city’s core to find more affordable options. Historically, this has meant a march eastward towards Portland’s border with Gresham. 
The problem is that today, outer east Portland has some of the lowest vacancy rates in the region, leaving little or no options for a family living there now but currently looking for a lower-cost alternative. That means a family in outer east Portland losing their apartment because of redevelopment -- or because of an unexpected medical bill or missed paycheck -- isn’t looking for a cheaper apartment, because they don’t exist. Instead they are faced with options that include trying to get a limited spot at a social service agency, living in their car or even living on the streets. This is a new and unwelcome dynamic for Portland. 
The current best guess of Portland’s homeless population is about 4,000 about half of whom are living with no roof over their heads. Who are these people?  As mentioned above, some have suffered a temporary setback and, with some emergency relief and a small hand up, could quickly exit homelessness. Some are suffering from mental illness or addictions and need more robust services before being able to exit homelessness. Some are just passing through Portland while living a deliberately itinerant lifestyle; and a small group are committing crimes, mostly preying on other homeless.
In short, people become homeless for many reasons, but we must remember that most deserve and need our help.
But the reality is that with our current vast undersupply of emergency shelters and programs to support them, Portland’s homeless population will continue to grow.  We know what that means. We see it every day when we drive to work, visit a park or trail, or take a walk through virtually any neighborhood in the city, and especially when we volunteer, as so many of us do, at the many wonderful social service programs in our city.
Every night, people are turned away from shelters because we don’t have enough emergency beds to say nothing about the lack of permanent housing. Elected, community and business leaders have come together to address this crisis and some progress has been made. Most notably, Portland, Gresham and Multnomah County are working together for the first time to try to make real change by removing redundancies, consolidating and streamlining management and pooling resources; primarily focusing on long term solutions.  Perhaps that makes sense but it means we will continue to lack emergency shelter. 
I know there are several groups working towards a solution for more emergency shelter beds so if you are asked to get involved, please give it a listen.  And don’t be fooled by the political apologists. Not every city is being overwhelmed like Portland. Cities like Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Houston are not.    
Portland can, and must, do better.
We need to stand together and say that Portland is not now, and never has been, a city where we accept the proposition that sleeping outdoors is a “safe sleep” option. The current situation is not a humane option, it is not a sanitary option and it is most certainly not a safe option.
We now have illegal tent camps on the same block as a pre-school, and seem surprised when a resident of one of those tents is shot just a couple of hours before the school opens. We now have children’s summer bike camps canceled due to safety concerns on the Springwater Corridor. There are fires in these camps every week.  To be frank, the current Safe Sleep policy has created a dangerous environment for all of us but especially for those who are living on the streets.
Portland can – and must – do better.
If I sound frustrated and a little angry, it is because I am and I hope you are too.  It is time for all of us to demand better solutions from our elected leaders.
To that end, over the last several months, the Alliance has conducted our “Portland Can Do Better” campaign. Primarily through social media, we have created a forum for discussion and an avenue to communicate with elected officials that has generated thousands of emails to Portland City Hall, demanding action to provide more indoor shelter, more services and more enforcement against illegal behaviors. Our goal is to ensure that this issue stays front and center throughout the 2016 Portland mayoral election, so that whoever is elected knows that all of Portland expects strong leadership and better solutions to Portland’s housing and homelessness crisis.
So where does all of this leave us?  We have seen good growth as Portland-metro takes off, and we have identified some challenges.   
As the region’s business leaders, we must work together to ensure these challenges are met so that Portland-metro can be a place where every individual has a roof over their head, and where families can thrive because good jobs are plentiful.  We can make this happen if we demand it of ourselves and of our elected leaders.
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Join us as Portland takes flight April 2016
By Mitch Hornecker

Business growth in the Portland region is taking off, and that is the central theme of this year’s Portland Business Alliance Annual Meeting, quickly approaching on Tuesday, May 3, at the Oregon Convention Center. If you haven’t yet bought your tickets, I encourage you to do that today online. Trust me, you won’t want to miss out this year!

In line with the event theme, “Portland Takes Flight,” we are thrilled to have Alaska Airlines President and CEO Brad Tilden provide the keynote address. As I’m sure you’ve seen, the Alaska Air Group recently announced plans to purchase Virgin America, a carrier with a presence in major California hubs like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Alaska Airlines and Virgin America both are strong brands with loyal followings. This acquisition will make Alaska the fifth-largest U.S. airline with the potential to become the largest carrier up and down the West Coast.

Throughout the event, we’ll focus on our region’s expected growth and the opportunities and challenges that come with it. Right now, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Portland-metro area ranks 13th among U.S. metro areas with the largest increase in new residents moving from elsewhere. The Portland region also is growing jobs faster than the national average for metro areas, with 7 percent growth between September 2014 and September 2015, according to the most recent Value of Jobs Economic Checkup. In fact, by September 2015, this region had not only regained the number of jobs lost during the recession, but we actually grew to 70,700 more jobs than we had in 2007.

All this growth isn’t surprising to anyone. Our region is well known for a high quality of life, vibrant industries, and a unique culture. The population influx already has brought new talent, fresh ideas and big investments, which should yield a cadre of new employers and jobs.

Yet with growth comes challenges that must be addressed if Portland is to preserve and build on everything that makes this region attractive. We’ll need to address key issues that come with growth like increased housing costs, more transportation, and solutions for our region’s persistent challenge sheltering the homeless. Underneath all these issues is the need to contain the rising costs of doing business here and to preserve and create more family-wage jobs.

Our community of policy makers, business leaders and civic groups will need to ponder and address these challenges and make hard decisions that will have a long-term impact on economic vitality in this region.

The Annual Meeting allows us time to reflect at the crossroads, yet it’s also an important time to stand up and celebrate businesses and leaders who are making a significant impact today. We look forward to presenting our annual Volunteer Awards, the Community Partner Award and the prestigious President’s Award. And while I’m not giving away any specifics here, there will also be some exciting prizes given away for those who like to “take flight” to exciting locales.  We hope to see you there!
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Why the street maintenance proposal makes sense… this time March 2016
By Mitch Hornecker, Howard S. Wright

Last week, the Portland Business Alliance board of directors voted to support the 10-cent/gallon gas tax to fix city of Portland streets headed to the May 2016 ballot.
We all know that Portland’s transportation system is desperately in need of attention. Backing new taxes is never something we do lightly, but putting our support behind this proposal is consistent with the position we took throughout the prolonged – and frequently difficult – street fee debates of 2014 and 2015 that additional revenue is warranted, but the details mattered.
The plan that the City Council is referring to voters for the May 2016 ballot would establish a 10-cent per gallon gas tax, which would sunset in four years if it is not renewed by voters. It is projected to raise $58 million over that initial four-year period which, although still woefully short of what’s needed to address Portland’s transportation maintenance backlog, at least gets us started in the right direction.
We’ve seen the city establish new fees to fund transportation before only to later divert the revenue to other, non-road programs (think utility franchise fee). The elegance of this new proposal is that Oregon’s constitution requires that all gas tax revenue be used for transportation programs, so diversion at a later date will not be possible. It is a user-based tax, something we have advocated for, and, as a gas tax, the constitution requires that it win voter approval before it can become effective. I hope Portlanders will vote yes.
In the wake of last year’s difficult street fee debate, I think many of us seriously questioned whether Portland’s leaders would be able to find a path forward on the street maintenance issue. The fact that they have is due largely to the diligence of Commissioner Steve Novick who, to his credit, took a step back after last year’s failure and brought all interest groups to the table to help him devise a plan that would win broad support. I want to thank Steve for his leadership.
Our support did not come without conditions. Throughout the discussions we have maintained that a majority of the money from a new tax must go toward addressing the huge transportation maintenance backlog. That condition is met in this proposal, and we are also supportive of the plan’s much needed safety improvements. We remain watchful that vehicle lanes will not be lost as the city makes road improvements, but we feel comfortable that our voice will be heard as the Bureau of Transportation moves forward implementing the plan.
While the revenue from this plan is a gain, it is certainly not sufficient. Another condition we put on our support was that the city would have “skin in the game,” devoting funds from existing sources to transportation improvements. We have seen that happening over the last year, and we will advocate for its continuation. Transportation is a basic city service and it cannot be overlooked.
All in all, we feel the proposal City Council has put forward for voter approval in May is sound. I want to again thank all five members of Council for their work on this issue and, especially, Commissioner Novick for his leadership.  With Portland City Council now recognizing the importance of transportation investments, maybe we can expand that enthusiasm to the state and work together toward a statewide transportation investment plan.
Please join me in supporting the Portland gas tax proposal in May.
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Portland’s homelessness crisis: We can, and must, do better February 2016
By Mitch Hornecker

You may have seen some new emails in your inbox over the last few weeks from the Portland Business Alliance. These emails are part of our PDX Can Do Better campaign, an effort we’re working on to urge city leaders to act on solutions to Portland’s homeless crisis. Through this campaign, we’ve launched a new website – – and increased our email advocacy in an effort to raise awareness and instigate action among Portlanders who are concerned about our city’s homelessness crisis and the proliferation of illegal camps in neighborhoods throughout our community.

Last week, Mayor Hales announced his new “Safe Sleep Policy,” which currently prohibits tents but allows sleeping bags and tarps on all of Portland’s sidewalks between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. People who insist on using tents apparently will be directed to unspecified city rights of way and “remnant” areas, and the city apparently plans to work with nonprofits to site sanctioned tent and RV campgrounds. But these are just guesses because the mayor’s office says the “plan” is to develop the details as they go along.

The Alliance remains deeply troubled by the suggestion that camping – in sleeping bags, tents and RVs – is now somehow considered a solution. It is our position that turning a blind eye to outdoor sleeping and sanctioning camps is neither humane nor safe and certainly not a solution for the more than 2,000 people asking the city to find them a dry, safe and clean place to sleep.  Plain and simple, an ill-conceived authorization to allow outdoor sleeping and camping without a single new shelter bed added to our current inventory is not a plan, it is a failure of leadership – and it is certainly not a solution.

In fact, safety is becoming an increasing concern – especially the safety of those individuals sleeping on our streets and in open spaces. We recently learned that, according to the Portland Police Bureau, there have been 11 serious assaults (those classified as Measure 11 crimes) involving homeless individuals just since Jan. 1 of this year.  Eight of these 11 assaults were stabbings. The number of homicides involving the homeless increased to seven in 2015, up from five in 2014 and three in 2013.

Our partners at Downtown Clean & Safe see other evidence of illegal or uncivil behaviors. Since 2012, the number of used hypodermic needles recovered by Clean & Safe cleaners on downtown streets has almost tripled, peaking at 8,220 in 2015. And the number of “biohazards” cleaned up (e.g., human feces), has almost doubled to 41,291 in 2015.

The knee jerk reaction is to assume that homeless individuals are causing the chaos and associated livability issues and crimes; occasionally, but not always, that may be the case. Certainly, it is not fair to imply that all, or even most, of the people on the street are lawbreakers, and we do not believe that to be the case.  But it is clear that homeless individuals are frequently the victims of these crimes because they sleep outside. As Portlanders, we should all demand a better solution from our elected leaders.

The Alliance’s advocacy is centered on three priorities: 1) we need more humane solutions, including additional indoor shelter capacity, for people who sleep outside; 2) we need more services, like mental health and addiction treatments, for those who need them; and 3) we need to enforce the laws and have zero tolerance for illegal behavior.

We are pushing, and we urge you to join us, for more practical, humane solutions to address our homelessness crisis. We know there are solutions. We were proud to have facilitated the recent opening of the Peace Shelter, which was made possible because of the extraordinary generosity of the Barry Menashe family and the quick response from Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Transition Projects.  The Peace Shelter is a wonderful example of the generosity and compassion of our business community and the power of public/private partnerships. Additionally, Multnomah County converted a former strip club on the eastside into a shelter for women, and the city has converted an unused armory in Southwest Portland to house women and couples this winter.  These three locations are safely and humanely housing the homeless, but most of the beds they provide are temporary. 

Meanwhile, the city owns many empty or little used buildings – many of which could provide a dry, clean, safe place to sleep like the Peace Shelter.  However, even after the mayor’s declaration of a housing emergency four months ago, these buildings remain closed to the homeless and, instead, the mayor’s plan appears to “institutionalize” and normalize thousands of our fellow human beings sleeping on the streets.     

The Alliance has advocated for solutions for the homeless for years, but we made our efforts more public last summer with a petition that garnered more than 3,300 signatures, many from our members as well as other concerned citizens. The sentiment we heard from the community was universal – the situation has gotten out of hand. We are continuing to grow that effort with the campaign you are seeing now. We’re urging all Portlanders to say with one voice “we can do better” and demand that city leaders act on solutions – NOW.
We make it easy to take action, and if you haven’t already, we hope you will activate your voice regarding this important issue facing our city. Send a message today to Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and the City Council at
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Trans-Pacific Partnership means more opportunities for Oregon workers January 2016
By Mitch Hornecker

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a fantastic holiday. As we kick off 2016, the Portland Business Alliance Board of Directors is excited to announce its official endorsement of a major new federal trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The importance of trade to Oregon’s economy was a predominant theme in the Alliance’s work in 2015, and it will continue to be a priority in 2016 as ratification of the TPP hopefully goes before Congress.

Last year, President Obama concluded negotiations on the TPP, a trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 nations in the Pacific Rim. Congress must now approve the TPP, and the Alliance is joining business organizations across the nation to urge ratification because of the importance of trade to maintain and grow middle income jobs here in Oregon.

Importantly, the TPP nations are already valuable trading partners for our state. In fact, 44 percent of Oregon’s goods exports in 2014 went to TPP nations, and 88 percent of the Oregon companies exporting to these countries were small or medium-sized companies. The potential of the TPP to broaden and deepen existing relationships will only bring greater opportunity for Oregon workers.  

There are more Oregonians who owe their livelihoods to international trade than ever before. They are manufacturers, farmworkers, software developers, graphic designers and shipyard workers, to name just a few. Trade sustains our entire economy and provides tax revenue for vital government services. It also puts more money in the pockets of Oregon workers, helping them afford a home and support their family. Oregon’s ability to sell its goods and services around the world is vital to maintaining and improving our quality of life.

The 12 signatory TPP nations represent two-fifths of the global economy. This new trade pact will set the rules for Trans-Pacific commerce, opening new markets for American exports. The TPP contains important improvements to existing trade agreements. For starters, it provides stronger protections for workers and the environment in the 11 Pacific Rim signatory countries and includes enforcement provisions that will hold all of the countries accountable. It also includes strong intellectual property protections for Oregon companies creating software, apparel, and other goods with significant brand value. Finally, it establishes new requirements to promote transparent, non-discriminatory treatment of electronic commerce in our digital economy. It is an agreement that will strengthen and modernize trade rules for everybody involved.

At the Oregon Leadership Summit in December, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who has been a major champion of trade legislation, spoke to the importance of a Trans-Pacific trade deal for Oregon. “The world is craving Oregon products. They want to buy what you all make. They want to buy our computers. They want to buy our bicycles. They want to buy our fruit and wine. Let’s make sure that we have a modern trade policy, a policy with trade done right that protects our workers and protects our businesses.”

We agree, Senator Wyden.

On behalf of the Alliance board, we’re proud to support this trade pact because of its potential unprecedented positive impact to our community. The future of Oregon depends on our ability to expand overseas markets so businesses like yours can compete globally and our workers can find new customers. I hope you will join me in urging Oregon’s congressional delegation to support the TPP.

To learn more about the TPP, go to, and to learn more about international trade and its significance to Oregon’s economy, visit
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2015 Economic Check-Up; income and affordability remains our challenge December 2015
By Mitch Hornecker

This week, we released the sixth annual Value of Jobs Economic Check-Up in partnership with the Value of Jobs Coalition. The report looks at Portland-metro’s economic performance in 2015 and shows that we’re repeating some key trends seen in our region’s economic history; trends that follow recessions and upswings. In short, we’re seeing a landscape similar to 2014 showing strengths in job growth, productivity and exports. Portland-metro’s median household income (MHI) even outpaces the national average as well as some U.S. metro areas with whom we compare ourselves. Yet, incomes continue to grow slowly. Portland-metro’s median household income only increased $120 between 2013 and 2014. Individual per capita income has grown a paltry $740 since 2000.  Contrasted with our much more rapidly rising cost of living, it’s clear that our region continues to become more unaffordable for many working families.

But let’s start by diving into the good news. Portland-metro’s job growth is experiencing a faster rebound from recessionary job losses than most metro regions across the country. The region added 35,800 new jobs between September 2014 and September 2015, and has now added a total of 70,700 net new jobs since 2007, which was our peak employment before the recession. We’re seeing this growth in local and traded sectors, both of which are important to a healthy regional economy. As we all know, our core mission at the Alliance is to grow private-sector jobs in the region, so as a general trend, we welcome this news – especially given our rapid population growth.

Two other areas where Portland-metro’s economy shines are in productivity and exports, driven largely by our very strong electronics industry, specifically the impact of semiconductor manufacturing, otherwise known as “the Intel effect.” Portland-metro continues to outpace the nation in Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP), landing ninth in the nation for year over year growth in 2015. Additionally, Portland-metro is a national leader in manufacturing as a percentage of overall exports, with 75 percent of Portland-metro’s exports attributed to manufacturing compared to 60 percent nationally. This last point underscores two things – the importance of manufacturing to jobs in our region and the critical role international trade continues to play in the overall economy.     

Yet despite this good news, we’re still seeing concerning trends related to incomes and affordability, and so once again, we looked at the types of jobs that are growing here. Since we began these reports in 2010, a persistent concern has been our lagging income growth, especially for middle-income workers. It is troubling to see that incomes have still not rebounded even though the number of jobs has bounced back. Portland-metro’s per capita income trails the national average by $1,821, while median household income outpaces the national average by $3,700 but lags– Seattle, Denver and Minneapolis – which are our aspirational comparative regions. In fact, since 2010 the gaps between Portland’s household income and those of our aspirational regions have only grown wider.

Both of these measurements are important indicators of how Portlanders are faring in the economy. What these latest statistics shows us is that we need to focus on creating more job opportunities that offer better incomes, specifically middle-income jobs that another recent Value of Jobs report revealed have been in decline for three decades

The area that I found the most interesting, and concerning, is where we look at the types of jobs offered in the region and what that means for prosperity. Again, the results look great at first. Portland-metro’s labor force participation outpaces the national average across most age ranges, particularly for those in prime income earning years. However, when we consider only full-time and full-year employees, Portland underperforms the U.S. metro average at every age range. This means Portlanders are working, but a disproportionate number are in part-time jobs that are less likely to offer good wages and benefits. This has negative implications for the region’s economy, because lagging incomes make it much harder for individuals and families to save for retirement, purchase a home, put kids through college or just make ends meet. 

So, what do we need to do? We need to focus not just on job growth, but ensuring good jobs for everyone. We also need to address the affordability issue, which is increasingly becoming more challenging for Portland families as a result of slow income growth, rapidly rising housing prices and cost of living increases. If we want Portland to be a place where middle-income families can prosper, we need to address some of the issues raised in this report. It is our hope we can work with you, our members, leaders and decision makers to grow good jobs, raise incomes and increase affordability.

Please take the time to read the full report at

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Downtown Portland reigns in the holiday season November 2015
By Mitch Hornecker, Howard S. Wright

Downtown Portland is welcoming the beginning of the holiday season with lights, Pop-Up Shops and a variety of promotions for downtown shoppers. This is a prime time of year for retailers and restaurateurs, and thanks to the Clean & Safe District and our partners at the Downtown Marketing Initiative, holiday programming in downtown Portland creates the festive shopping experience of a healthy and vibrant central city.
And, when you come downtown, you are probably going to see knit sweaters on some of Portland’s most iconic statues. This is our popular “yarn-bombing” promotion, where local artists create fun and sometimes ugly holiday sweaters for downtown statues. One of our favorites is a striped number worn by “Allow Me,” the umbrella man in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Over the next few weeks, we hope to grab pictures of local celebrities joining the umbrella man with a matching holiday sweater, which we will post on social media for everyone to enjoy. For every photo of someone wearing the matching “Allow Me” sweater, we will make a donation to Transition Projects to help them serve homeless individuals. But you can get into the act by putting on your favorite ugly holiday sweater, taking a photo and posting it on social media with #uglysweaterPDX.
By popular demand, Pop-Up Shops are back for the sixth consecutive year. Started during the hardest recession years, the Pop-Up Shop program activates empty storefronts with local entrepreneurs, allowing us to support local talent and emerging retail entrepreneurs. The Pop-Up Shop program creates new jobs, temporarily activates vacant storefronts and encourages shoppers to seek out unique local gifts during the holiday season. Like last year, our Pop-Up Shops are in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood at 428 NW Broadway, where three local vendors – Field Notes/Draplin Design Co., Folk, Stubborn Stiles and Omiyage - will sell their goods under one roof. Our other Pop-Up Shop, Omiyage, is located nearby at 341 NW Fifth Ave.

For the past six years, we have been working closely with the city of Portland, our partners in the Clean & Safe District and Travel Portland to reinvigorate and revitalize downtown Portland to ensure it remains the premier shopping destination in the region. Downtown’s retail vacancy rate remains at a low 5 percent, and this year we have more than 40 new retailers downtown, representing a mix of national and local stores.

Downtown Portland is truly the place to celebrate the holidays; I encourage you to take advantage of all it has to offer during this season. For information on holiday events and happenings, visit
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A win for trade in Oregon October 2015
By Mitch Hornecker, Howard S. Wright

International trade and its huge positive impact on our state and regional economy has been a major focus of the Alliance in 2015. In partnership with the Pacific Northwest International Trade Association (PNITA) and the Port of Portland, the Alliance is running a year-long campaign – Trade in Oregon - to raise awareness for the power of trade to transform Oregon’s economy. Last week, our drumbeat got a bit louder as the U.S. and 11 other nations reached agreement on the largest trade pact in history.

The  Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)  is a proposed trade agreement among the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Darussalam, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei, a list that includes eight of Oregon’s 12 largest export destinations.  The TPP has the potential to greatly expand Oregon’s trade by opening new markets and reaching new customers, primarily in Asia.

Oregon is one the states best-positioned to benefit from this agreement. In 2014, Oregon exported $21 billion of our products to markets in every corner of the world. Our workers and farmers produce the most sophisticated, sought-after and high-quality products available, and it is a source of pride that our small state plays such an outsized role in our nation’s exports.

The TPP has something to offer to all sizes of Oregon businesses. It will improve access to markets for big companies like Nike and Intel, while also making it easier for smaller businesses to find new customers for their products. An increase in trade will bring more revenue and more family-wage jobs to these businesses. In fact, according to the Alliance’s Value of Jobs reports on trade, about 90 percent of Oregon exporters are small- to medium-sized businesses. Plus almost half a million jobs in our state are tied directly or indirectly to trade. Trade-related jobs, on average, pay nearly 20 percent more than those not connected to trade.

We believe the TPP will boost Oregon’s trade-based economy. Countries in the TPP make up 48 percent of Oregon’s exports, and they are a source of important foreign direct investment for our state: more than 145 companies from the TPP nations have a presence in Oregon, employing thousands of workers. With this new legislation, that presence can only grow.  

While we have made great progress in reaching a deal, our work is not done. Your voice is needed now, more than ever, to get the agreement over the finish line. Please write to your U.S. Senators and U.S. House Members to voice support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 
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Where are the jobs that support Portland families? September 2015
By Mitch Hornecker

Here at the Alliance, our first priority is to support our members. We do that through advocacy on issues that impact all of our businesses, and we do our best to make sure that Portland-metro is a place where private-sector jobs can grow and thrive. As I mentioned in my last column, our work this year will be rooted in growing and retaining middle-wage jobs. Portland, like most regions of the U.S., is experiencing a decline in middle-income jobs, contributing to income disparity in the region amidst increases in costs of living. This is concerning, as these are the jobs that support families and are the backbone of our economy.

When we talk about middle-wage jobs, we’re talking about jobs typically found in areas like construction, manufacturing, education and retail. Construction in particular is often misperceived as a career that only provides temporary jobs. While this sector has always been rooted in project-based work, that doesn’t mean that the jobs it provides aren’t good, family-wage jobs.  
The Oregon State Building & Construction Trades Council plays a big role in supporting the construction and manufacturing industry by providing a skilled workforce. As an employer of construction workers, I know firsthand that this is a really important piece of our ability to be successful and complete projects on time. The Oregon State Building & Construction Trades Council represents 25,000 workers, and is an intricate part of our region’s workforce, economy and future economic prosperity. I’d like to congratulate them on their 75th anniversary, and thank their Executive Secretary, John Mohlis, for his years of partnership with the business community. Both have been tireless advocates for construction workers across our state and great partners of the Alliance.

When we look at how we need to be addressing middle-income job loss, manufacturing is another industry where we should focus on growing and retaining middle-wage jobs. A past Value of Jobs study has shown people of color and those who don’t speak English at home can earn up to 50 percent more in manufacturing than other jobs. Manufacturing, as well as construction, are good industries for workers with different education attainment levels. There is mounting evidence that a four-year college degree isn’t the best way to prepare everyone for the workforce. Governments are trying to ramp up career-focused vocational education systems – like apprenticeships, which the Oregon State Building & Construction Trades Council have long provided. For many, apprenticeships are a path to a job that can lead to a career that can support a family. 

As part of our work to grow middle-wage jobs in the region, it’s important that we work together in identifying proactive steps that can be taken to make Portland-metro a place where middle-income families can thrive. That includes collaboration between employers, educators and students around high-demand skills – like construction and manufacturing – that offer pathways to the middle class and beyond.
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New board leadership announces priorities for 2015-16 August 2015
By Mitch Hornecker

I hope everyone has been enjoying a beautiful, and unusually warm, Pacific Northwest summer. As you may know, the Alliance board elected a new set of officers in July and I am privileged to assume the role as your new board chair. After 22 years as a downtown business lawyer, I became an owner in the construction business and am now the executive vice president for Howard S. Wright Balfour Beatty Construction, one of the Northwest’s oldest general contractors. I look forward to leading the board this year, supporting your needs and continuing our work to make the Portland region a great place to live and do business.

In the coming year, the board will continue its focus on preserving and growing middle-wage jobs. Our Value of Jobs reports have shown that Portland-metro needs to be accessible for companies that generate quality jobs so middle-income families can thrive in Portland. And our most recent work that looked at the fast-rising cost of housing stressed that family-wage jobs are more important than ever before.

Another important piece of the board’s work this year will include advocating for solutions to homelessness and community livability issues.

Many of us on the board have become very concerned about the number of people living and panhandling on our streets, sidewalks, parks and open spaces. We feel it is not humane for men, women and especially children to sleep outside where their safety and health is compromised every night. We’re also seeing its affect on Portland families and visitors, who want to feel safe using our public spaces, and small business owners whose customers and employees must navigate Portland’s sidewalks. We can do better than this.

More than fifteen years ago, I helped found New Avenues for Youth, a local outcome-based program serving homeless and at-risk youth, because I was alarmed at the sight of young people living and struggling on our streets. Like many of you, I wanted to be part of the solution. While New Avenues and other homeless service providers have had tremendous successes, this summer especially we seem to be overwhelmed by more people than ever in need of mental health services, emergency shelter and long-term housing and employment.

You may have seen our homeless and street livability campaign, which includes a public petition urging Mayor Charlie Hales and members of Portland City Council to prioritize ways to better serve people who are on the street. We’ve taken on a bit of a different approach, calling on the community – not just our members – to express their concern and urge city leaders to act. The petition’s response has been overwhelming and indicative of the thoughtfulness that defines Portlanders. More than 2,700 people have spoken and agree with the need for the city to prioritize this issue. As we urge action, we are more than willing to be at the table and work with city leaders to find the right solutions. In the meantime, we will continue to make this one of our top advocacy priorities until we see action. If you are concerned about this issue, too, I encourage you to sign the petition and share it with your networks.

Sign the petition:

As a member of Portland’s business community for many years, it is with great honor that I have the opportunity to lead this organization over the next year. With your ongoing support and involvement, I know we can continue to make an impact to strengthen our business community and improve our region's quality of life.
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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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Regaining middle-income jobs is critical to regional growth and equity May 2015
By Debbie Kitchin

Middle-income job loss is a national phenomenon, and also hits home right here in the Portland-metro region. Earlier this month, we released our latest Value of Jobs report, which takes a deep look at middle-income job loss in the Portland-metro region from 1980-2013. The report looks at what has happened to middle-income jobs over time, where they are located in the region, where people who hold those jobs live, and what a decline in these jobs means for our economic vitality and for the region’s workers compared to those in similar U.S. metro areas.

While Portland-metro has recovered jobs lost during the recession, this study shows us that jobs and incomes in the middle aren’t coming back as quickly. The result is that jobs at the top and bottom ends of the wage scale have grown faster than middle-income jobs in Portland-metro and, as a result, middle-income jobs, as a percentage of the region’s overall jobs base have declined from 69 percent in 1980 to 57 percent in 2013. (For details, and to see how we defined middle-income jobs, go to

Middle-income jobs historically are the backbone of any economy. They support families and provide a step from poverty to prosperity for immigrants and underserved populations. That is why I consider this an equity issue. In Portland, we talk a lot about equity, and I believe there is a sincere shared commitment about addressing issues that have resulted in persistent poverty for so many underserved communities. In my view, the critical factor for economic equity is access to a good job, and, for most families, that usually starts with access to middle-income jobs.

We need a concerted effort to grow our middle-income job sectors, and then we need to make sure there is a pathway to those jobs for people who have been left behind in terms of economic prosperity. Our report lists a number of factors that support middle-income job development, but I will say the first – and most important – factor in my mind is having elected leaders who are ready and willing to say yes to jobs, even when the politics get dicey. I get discouraged when I see discussions like the one we are having now around the proposed Pembina propane project, which could get shut down before it even has a fair hearing before Portland City Council. Certainly, the 800 construction workers who would have been employed at that project should have an opportunity to tell Portland’s leaders that their middle-income jobs should count.

Another aspect of our report that is getting a lot of attention is our look at home affordability in Portland-metro.  A neighborhood-by-neighborhood analysis in the report showed that, with a few exceptions, the region’s core has no home ownership opportunities for households earning less than $70,000, which essentially prices many middle-income households out of the market. Certainly, we don’t want Portland to become a place where only high-income families can afford to buy a home, so the report’s finding should be cause for concern and action as we look at factors that impact home affordability.

All in all, this was one of our most interesting Value of Jobs reports, as is indicated by the media attention we got. I urge you to spend some time with it and take a look at the trends we’ve documented. And then join us in our work to ensure Portland-metro is a region where middle-class families can thrive and home affordability is still possible.

To read the full Value of jobs report on middle-income jobs, visit
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Alliance launches small business advising program April 2015
By Debbie Kitchin

Here at the Portland Business Alliance, we are strong advocates of small business as a critical part of our regional economy. Portland-area small businesses drive the region’s entrepreneurial innovation and make up approximately 80 percent of the Alliance’s membership. As such, the Alliance works to enhance and improve this community by providing resources and education to help them thrive.

Last month, the Alliance launched a brand new program for small business owners. We are partnering with Portland Community College’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to provide advising to small business owners at no cost. The one-hour sessions are conducted by business advisors and are open to everyone. The sessions can cover topics such as how to incorporate innovative hiring techniques or any other aspect of growing a healthy business.
As a small business owner, I know it’s really important to take advantage of resources like these. With my husband Jim, I own InterWorks LLC, a general contracting firm, and I can tell you that something like this would have been extremely useful for us when we first started. In fact, I think it might even still be useful. We often get so ingrained in the day-to-day operations of our business that we sometimes forget to take a step back and get some outside perspective and, in this case, expert advice.

If you’re a small business owner, this is an opportunity not to miss! The advising sessions are available every Tuesday at the Alliance by appointment only. You can sign up at and be sure to mention “Portland Business Alliance” in the comments. If you have any questions, please contact Amanda Ray at the Alliance at or 503-552-6759.

The Alliance also helps small businesses grow through our Small Business Management Scholarship Program, which I’ve talked about here before. With support from Bank of America, we partner with the SBDC in providing a 10-month training program, designed to help experienced business owner grow to the next level. I’m a big supporter of this program because it produces real results – job and revenue growth – for businesses that are driving innovation in our community. We recently interviewed five graduates from the program about their experience. Check out the interviews on the Alliance website.

Lastly, we are close to wrapping up our annual Alaska Airlines Membership Referral Drive. If you know of a business that isn’t already an Alliance member and would be a good fit for membership, please recommend it here. If you submit a referral, you’ll be entered into the grand prize drawing of two tickets to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies at our Forum breakfast on June 12. The more referrals you enter, the greater your chances of winning!

Thank you for your support.
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New markets open possibilities for everyone March 2015
By Debbie Kitchin

This content was first published in the Portland Tribune on March 24 in the Portland Business Alliance’s monthly column.  

In recent weeks, we have seen growing public discussion about two proposals currently before Congress: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is a key negotiator on both pieces of legislation, which also have President Obama’s strong backing. I’d like to offer a perspective on why the TPA and TPP are essential for the economic prosperity and vitality of our state, and even important to small businesses like mine, which you wouldn’t typically think are connected to trade.

But first, the background.

Renewal of the TPA must come first. Created by Congress in 1974, Trade Promotion Authority is power granted by Congress to the president to negotiate and sign trade pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPA expired in 2007 and must be renewed.

The TPP — Trans-Pacific Partnership — is a proposed trade agreement among the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Darussalam, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei, a list that includes eight of Oregon’s 12 largest export destinations. The TPP has the potential to greatly expand Oregon’s trade with new markets, reaching new customers, primarily in Asia. As President Obama recently stated, 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S. That makes global trade legislation something we cannot afford to postpone if Oregon is to stake a competitive claim in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Trade is a regional strength. In 2014, Oregon exported $21 billion in products to markets in every corner of the world. Our workers and farmers produce the most sophisticated, sought-after and high-quality products available, and it is a source of pride that our small state plays such an outsized role in driving our nation’s exports. According to public opinion research conducted by DHM Research for the Portland Business Alliance, 90 percent of voters surveyed in the Portland region felt it important for Oregon’s elected leaders to support the development of international trade. In addition, 62 percent said increasing the promotion of Oregon products abroad to open up and expand markets should be prioritized.

That voter support for trade exists for good reason. Trade brings revenue and family-wage jobs to businesses of all sizes and sectors. In fact, according to the Alliance’s Value of Jobs reports on trade, about 90 percent of Oregon exporters are small- to medium-sized businesses. Plus almost half a million jobs in the state are tied directly or indirectly to trade, and trade-related jobs, on average, pay nearly 20 percent more than those not connected to trade.

It also seems to me that trade should play a key role in our equity agenda. Many of our key trade-related industries are manufacturers, and we know that manufacturing jobs, on average, pay more than non-manufacturing jobs. In fact, a Value of Jobs look at manufacturing found that people of color and people who don’t speak English at home earn 50 percent more in manufacturing jobs — and those jobs frequently provide a path out of poverty for less advantaged families. So if we are serious about pursuing an equity agenda in this region, promoting trade has to be part of it.

The ripple effect across the economy is significant. Trade-based companies rely on local service providers like contractors and suppliers, and their workers buy houses and cars, and shop and eat in local establishments. And sometimes they remodel, which is where my business, InterWorks, LLC, comes in. I know that a lot of my customers work for companies that are directly related to trade. If they didn’t have those jobs — and those paychecks — they wouldn’t be coming to me to remodel their houses. So I — and the people who work for my small business — benefit from trade.

The TPP could expand the possibilities of Oregon’s trade-based economy even further, growing more jobs. Countries in the TPP make up 48 percent of Oregon’s exports, and they are a source of important foreign direct investment for our state: more than 145 companies from the TPP nations have a presence in Oregon, employing thousands of workers. With the new legislation, that presence can only grow.

I have written my congressional representatives asking them to support the TPA and the TPP. I hope you will as well.

Debbie Kitchin is owner of InterWorks, LLC, a general contracting firm located in Portland’s Central Eastside. She chairs the Portland Business Alliance Board of Directors and is president of the Central Eastside Industrial Council.

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2015 Annual Meeting a time to celebrate and look forward March 2015
By Debbie Kitchin

The Portland Business Alliance is busy preparing for its biggest event of the year, the 2015 Annual Meeting on May 19. Annual Meeting is one of the largest business gatherings in the state, attracting more than 1,000 business and civic leaders. I always look forward to this event because it’s a time to reflect on what the Alliance members and staff have accomplished and a time to look at where we are headed. Most of all, however, it’s an opportunity for our members and volunteers to be recognized for their unyielding dedication.

A main draw of our Annual Meeting is always the keynote speaker.  Over the years, we have heard from many dynamic and thoughtful business leaders who have shared insights into their business and industry. This year is no exception as Tamara Lundgren, president & CEO of Schnitzer Steel Industries, one of the largest traded-sector companies in Oregon, is slated to speak about the importance of international trade. A large part of our business community, including many of our members, represent trade-related industries. We plan to talk about the role trade plays in our economy, and how it supports middle-income jobs and our ability to compete globally. Tamara also is the chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We’re lucky to have this opportunity to hear from such an influential business leader, both locally and nationally, and I look forward to hearing all she has to say.

The Annual Meeting stage will showcase a big focus of the organization and for me personally this year: women business leaders. It is our goal to raise the profile of women who are making strides in the Portland-metro business community, like Tamara Lundgren. In addition to Annual Meeting, we will feature women in business at our April Forum, and of course at our annual A Place With No Ceiling event in September.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without support from members of the business community. We hope you’ll be able to join us at our biggest event of the year. Tickets are on sale and can be purchased on the Alliance website, but don’t hesitate. The event will sell out quickly! We will see you there.
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Growing the future workforce for small businesses February 2015
By Debbie Kitchin

Did you know that 80 percent of the Alliance’s membership are small businesses? One thing we hear often from these members is that they struggle to find skilled workers to fill jobs. I can relate. My husband and I own a small construction business, so I know how valuable a skilled pool of talent is. To that end, the Alliance, with help from The Rockefeller Foundation, is launching an effort to help small- and medium-sized businesses fill their workforce pipelines for the future.

The Alliance received a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation to help small businesses recruit and train young, local talent who lack resources to develop relevant job skills. In turn, area youth recruited into the programs will learn valuable, marketable skills while earning a living wage. There’s a strong business case for implementing innovative hiring programs, and, with proper training, youth can be an ideal source of energy, and they can appeal to new markets to help fortify a company’s longevity.

This week we had a discussion at our Forum Breakfast around the small business community’s leadership on youth hiring and upskilling. Many small businesses are developing innovative strategies to hire and train young workers in ways that are both good for business, and that reduce the unemployment hardships that disproportionately impact disadvantaged young people. We heard from groups that have a stake in this important initiative, including The Rockefeller Foundation and Economist Intelligence Unit, both based in New York City; and the Small Business Majority here in Portland as well as Precision Body & Paint of Beaverton, who is actually developing many best practices that are serving as a national model.  

I am also excited to announce that the Alliance will start offering business advising at its offices beginning on March 17, thanks to the foundation grant. We are partnering with Portland Community College’s Small Business Development Center to provide advising sessions for small business owners at no cost. The sessions will cover all aspects of growing a healthy business, including how to incorporate innovative hiring techniques. The one-hour sessions will be available on Tuesdays, by appointment only. We want our members to be the first to know about these new services; I encourage small business owners to take advantage of this free advising while the opportunity is here. If you’re interested, you can register at

These programs and services wouldn’t be possible without our members, so thank you for your support.
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2015: The Year of Trade in Oregon January 2015
By Debbie Kitchin

There are a lot of important and exciting issues on the agenda for the Portland Business Alliance in 2015, including a major focus on investing in international trade and trade-related infrastructure in our region. In partnership with the Pacific Northwest International Trade Association (PNITA) and the Port of Portland, the Alliance is launching a year-long campaign – Trade in Oregon - to raise awareness for the power of trade to transform Oregon’s economy.

International trade, in particular, is a bright spot in Oregon and supports hundreds of thousands of family-wage jobs. Our 2013 Value of Jobs report on international trade found that 490,000 Oregon jobs are directly or indirectly supported by international trade and, in 2012, $18 billion in goods were exported from Oregon. It may also be a surprise to know that about 90 percent of Oregon exporters are small- to medium-sized businesses.

Through this campaign, we want to bring attention to the fact that international trade in Oregon is happening in all different industries and because of our geographic location, is something at which our state is uniquely situated to excel. Oregon companies, including many Alliance members, are exporting everything from computer chips to lumber to wheat. Many Oregon businesses depend on imports like steel and auto parts. In fact, Portland is the fifth largest auto import gateway in the nation.

Through a year-long campaign consisting of advocacy, events, digital communication, and grassroots outreach, we will tell the story of international trade and how it benefits the economy and the community. Our goal is to educate, rally support, and build understanding around international trade in Oregon, while also calling action to our elected and thought leaders and encourage them join the conversation as advocates.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out our recently re-vamped international trade website at, where you can sign-up for newsletters and stay updated on the campaign. Also, join the international trade conversation on social media by using #tradeinOR.

I wish everyone a prosperous 2015.
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Alliance scholarship program helps boost small businesses December 2014
By Debbie Kitchin

Earlier this month, I had the honor of celebrating 11 small business owners’ graduation from our Small Business Management Scholarship Program, one of my favorite programs at the Alliance. I was joined by fellow board members Andrew Frazier of Frazier Hunnicutt Financial and Craig Christenson of Bank of America who helped me recognize the hard work and growth of the small business owners who were part of the fourth annual scholarship program.  As a result of this program, the recipients were able to add 19 full-time jobs, 16 part-time jobs and increased their sales by more than $900,000.

The Alliance has been investing in small businesses through Portland Community College’s Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) Small Business Management Program since 2010, thanks to a generous partnership with Bank of America. It was the first organization to explore a scholarship-based model with the SBDC, and since then other agencies and organizations have been inspired to sponsor in a similar fashion. The Alliance’s investment of $15,000 has helped the SBDC raise $150,000 in sponsorship dollars using the Alliance’s model.

The 10-month Small Business Management Scholarship Program is designed to put established entrepreneurs on the right track toward business success, including the ability to grow private-sector jobs. The small businesses in this year’s cohort represent a variety of industries, but all have one thing in common: they are traded-sector businesses, which means that they sell – or plan to begin selling – products or services outside of the Portland region. Traded-sector businesses are a critical piece to regional job growth; the Alliance’s Value of Jobs report on Portland-metros traded sector found that for every one traded-sector job, 2.5 local-sector jobs are created.
At the graduation, I spoke to one of the graduates, Victoria Lara, who owns Lara Media Services, a Hispanic marketing agency. When I asked what she gained from the program, she explained to me how as a small business owner it’s easy to miss opportunities because we are so busy with the day-to-day management. As a result of the support she received, she was able to learn about structure and get access to resources to help her better manage her business. As a small business owner myself, I can really relate to this.

As another class graduates, we welcome a new class of twelve small business owners who will start their journey in February 2015. For a list of the outgoing and incoming class, click here. The Alliance’s programs wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for its members, so thank you for contributing to our success.

I wish you all a happy holiday season and prosperous New Year!
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A thriving downtown economy this holiday season November 2014
By Debbie Kitchin

Downtown Portland is welcoming the beginning of the holiday 2014 season with lights, Pop-Up Shops and a variety of promotions for downtown shoppers. This is a prime time of year for retailers and restaurateurs, and thanks to the Clean & Safe District and our partners at the Downtown Marketing Initiative, holiday programming in downtown Portland creates the festive shopping experience of a healthy and vibrant central city.
We are kicking off the season this week with Portland Mayor Charlie Hales in Pioneer Courthouse Square with the unveiling of downtown’s first yarn bombed statue of the season, the “Allow Me” umbrella man in Pioneer Square. We are continuing last year’s “Ugly Sweater” art experience by having local fiber artists yarn bomb 10 statues in the Pioneer District with festive attire. The otters were my favorite last year - look for them on Yamhill and Morrison streets between Fifth and Sixth avenues. The duck and beaver statues, on the same block as the otters, will be decked out as mascots in honor of the Civil War football game this year. I’m a Reed College graduate so I’m free to cheer both teams: Go Ducks and Go Beavs!    
By popular demand, we are bringing back Pop-Up Shops this year. Started during the hardest recession years, the Pop-Up Shop program activates empty storefronts with local entrepreneurs, allowing us to support local talent and emerging retail entrepreneurs. The Pop-Up Shop program creates new jobs, temporarily activates vacant storefronts and encourages shoppers to seek out unique local gifts during the holiday season. For the first time, we will have shops in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood (11 NW Fifth Ave.), where three local vendors – Field Notes/Draplin Design Co., Omiyage and North St. Bags - will sell their goods under one roof.

For the past five years, we have been working closely with the city of Portland, our partners in the Clean & Safe District and Travel Portland to reinvigorate and revitalize downtown Portland to ensure it remains the premier shopping destination in the region. Downtown’s retail vacancy rate remains at a low 5 percent, and this year we have more than 30 new retailers downtown, representing a mix of national and local stores.

All this and more contributes to the importance of an active and healthy downtown. Results from the Clean & Safe District’s 2013 Business Census and Survey, which will be released next week, show that downtown has maintained its momentum and continues to be a great place to do business. Some highlights of the report findings include an upward trend in employment within construction and service industries. For the 13th year in a row, a large majority of downtown business owners feel that downtown is clean and safe. Look for our release of the full report next week.
Downtown Portland is truly the place to celebrate the holidays; I encourage you to take advantage of all it has to offer during this season. For information on holiday events and happenings, visit
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Alliance members come together to support Knight Cancer Challenge October 2014
By Debbie Kitchin

On September 23, I had the honor of helping launch an effort between labor and business, Unite for the Knight, where business and union locals joined forces to help raise money for the OHSU Knight Cancer Challenge. Many of my fellow Alliance board members, as well as leaders of the state’s largest business and labor organizations, participated in the launch. It was inspiring to see leaders from both sides of the table come together for the greater good of our city and region.

As you know, Phil and Penny Knight pledged to give a $500 million grant to the OSHU Knight Cancer Center if OHSU can match the funds in two years. With still over a year to go, OHSU is only $69 million short of reaching that goal. I believe this is our opportunity to help them get there.

The Knight Cancer Challenge is a unique opportunity for the region. An investment of this magnitude in biomedical research and technology will serve as a catalyst for economic activity in the form of immediate jobs, as well as long-term industry growth. And, thanks to the brilliant researchers at OHSU, we have a chance at finding a cure for cancer.

Many of our members have committed their support to the Knight Cancer Challenge. Portland General Electric (PGE) announced last week a donation of $100,000 to the Knight Cancer Challenge from its corporate foundation. PGE is also featuring the challenge in its Employee Giving Campaign over the next month and encouraging employees to participate in a variety of grassroots fundraising events.

Hoffman Construction was one of the first to implement an employee giving campaign for the Knight Cancer Challenge. In less than two months after Hoffman announced it would match employee contributions to the Knight Challenge four to one, the company raised nearly $1.5 million for the cause. ESCO Corporation has also included the Knight Cancer Challenge as one of six charity partners whom they match 50 percent of employee contributions.

This kind of campaign can be really successful in smaller businesses, too. Here at the Alliance, we are matching employee contributions to the Knight Cancer Challenge. With a staff less than 30, we’ve already raised $2,500.  

I hope you will join me and many of your fellow Alliance members in supporting Unite for the Knight. There are many ways to get involved, including making a personal contribution, a corporate contribution, implementing an employee giving campaign, or volunteering your time through some sort of grassroots effort.

To donate, visit And, when you have contributed, let us know by tweeting @OHSUKnight and @PDX_BizAlliance with #UnitefortheKnight. 
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Business and labor join forces to support Knight Cancer Challenge September 2014
By Debbie Kitchin

Today, I had the honor of helping launch an effort between the state's largest business and labor organizations to support the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Knight Cancer Challenge. The campaign, Business & Labor Unite for the Knight, is a coalition of Oregon businesses and union locals working together to raise money for the Knight Cancer Challenge.

As you know, Phil and Penny Knight have promised a $500 million grant to the Knight Cancer Institute if OHSU can raise a matching $500 million in two years. With still over a year to go, OHSU is just $69 million short of reaching that goal. This is our opportunity to help get them there.

The Knight Cancer Challenge is a unique opportunity for the region. An investment of this magnitude in biomedical research and technology will serve as a catalyst for economic activity in the form of immediate jobs, as well as long-term industry growth. And, thanks to the brilliant researchers at OHSU, we have a chance at finding a cure for cancer.

I hope you will join me in supporting the fight against cancer and this unprecedented opportunity to position OHSU as a world-class cancer research center.
There is more than one way to get involved. You can make a personal contribution, a corporate contribution and/or give through an employee giving campaign.

To donate, visit And, when you have contributed, let us know by tweeting @OHSUKnight and @PDX_BizAlliance with #UnitefortheKnight.
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Looking ahead at job growth in our region August 2014
By Debbie Kitchin
As a Portland Business Alliance board member for many years, it is a huge honor to lead this organization as its new board chair. In my years on the board and serving as the Alliance's Small Business Chair, I have watched this organization continue to grow and lead as the voice for business in the region. In the coming year, I am excited to guide the Alliance in its efforts to support small business entrepreneurship and its mission to grow family-wage jobs.
In the coming year, the board's focus will be around growing the region's middle-income jobs. Our primary mission as an organization is job growth, and over the past year, we have seen a trend both nationally and locally called income polarization. This means that there is a gap between high-end and low-end job growth, and as a result we are losing those middle income jobs that provide employment for the majority of families.
In Oregon, manufacturing and international trade are the backbone of our economy. These industries are also significant generators of middle income jobs. Consequently, I'd like to see the Alliance focus on raising the profile of traded-sector growth and manufacturing and export industries to help companies in these areas grow middle-income jobs. We are home to 100 year-old manufacturing companies that are innovating and competing globally. These companies and the jobs they provide are the stepping stone to family prosperity.
The Alliance conducted research on the traded-sector and manufacturing industry through its Value of Jobs work, which has proven that both these areas are vital to the Portland-metro economy. This year, we plan to explore these sectors more, specifically the role they play in supporting middle-income jobs.
Another area I will bring to my new role is an emphasis on small business. I run a family-owned small construction business with my husband Jim. As a small business owner and a longtime Alliance member, I've been involved in many policy issues facing small business and have received great value from using the Alliance as a resource and voice for my business. The Alliance does a great job supporting its members of all sizes and recognizes that small and large businesses need each other to prosper. I look forward to bringing this perspective and expertise to my role as chair.
Over the next year, you will continue to see us in the forefront of the conversation around middle-income jobs and small business growth. With your ongoing support and involvement, I know we can continue to make an impact to strengthen our business community and improve our region's quality of life.
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Thank you for an outstanding year June 2014
By Gregg Kantor

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.
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Springing into summer with a focus on our members May 2014
By Gregg Kantor

The past couple of months have been some of the busiest for the Portland Business Alliance. We wrapped up our largest event of the year, the Annual Breakfast, and led yet another successful trip to Washington, D.C., and we worked on a challenging issue in the city of Portland; the funding of street maintenance.
Our Annual Breakfast event gathered more than 1,000 people to celebrate the work the Alliance has done over the past year. This year, we focused on health care and heard from keynote speaker Bernard J. Tyson, CEO and Chairman of Kaiser Permanente, about his vision for health care reform and what he sees ahead for Kaiser in Oregon. We also heard from Governor John Kitzhaber about the transformation of health care in Oregon. And, we released a new Value of Jobs report on Portland-metro’s health care industry revealing that this sector is a bright spot in our economy. You can read the study here.

The Alliance hosted its annual trip to Washington D.C. May 21-23 and, for the second year, teamed up with Oregon Business Plan partners, the Oregon Business Council, Associated Oregon Industries and the Oregon Business Association, to present a statewide federal agenda to Oregon’s congressional representatives. This was our largest group yet, with nearly 50 representatives meeting with federal legislators and administration officials to discuss priority issues identified as key for the Oregon Business Plan. With two days in the nation’s capital, the group discussed international trade, federal forest management, immigration reform, infrastructure and manufacturing/career training.

In the last few weeks, we have also spent a considerable amount of time working with city leaders and others on the future of street maintenance in Portland. The Alliance agrees that our city’s streets are in bad condition and need attention and repair, and we have signaled that we are prepared to work with them on options for funding that work. We were concerned, however, that the proposal for a new street maintenance fee, raising some $50 million in revenue, was moving too quickly through Council, and there are a lot of questions about how the fee will be applied and the revenue spent. Council members appear ready to rethink the plan, and we will continue to work with them on it.

I want to thank all of the Alliance members who answered our action alert and sent City Council a note about this issue. We had an impact.

As my time as chair winds down, I can tell you that it has been a busy and challenging year. We have worked on a number of issues, and we have always kept our eye on our most important objective: being responsive to our members and growing our base. With 1,700 members, the Alliance is Oregon’s largest business organization, and that makes us a strong voice for all of you.

As we end the year, we are redoubling our efforts to grow our membership. So far during the 2013-14 fiscal year, 325 new members have joined the Alliance! We would like to invite you to participate in helping us close out this year strong. One way you can help is to be part of the Alliance’s Alaska Airlines Membership Referral Program. Simply refer a potential member company to the Alliance by June 13 and, if the company is not already a member, you’ll be entered to win two tickets on Alaska Airlines. The winner will be announced at the Forum on June 18.

Serving as chair of this great organization has been a tremendous honor. Next month, I will pen my last column, and, in anticipation of that, I want to say thank you to all of our members for making the Alliance a strong voice for business.
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Alliance board endorses candidates for office in May primary election April 2014
By Gregg Kantor

Earlier this month, the Alliance board of directors announced its candidate endorsements for the May primary election. For this election, the Alliance endorsed candidates for office at various jurisdictions, including the city of Portland, the Oregon Legislature, Multnomah County, Clackamas County, Washington County and Metro. In deciding which candidates we were going to endorse, we focused our support on those who demonstrated a commitment to economic development and job creation. Click here for a full list of endorsements.

When making endorsements, the board follows a process that includes interviewing the viable candidates for each office and asking them to complete a Value of Jobs candidate questionnaire. The Value of Jobs candidate questionnaires not only serve a resource for our endorsement process, but also give our members a better idea of where the candidates stand on issues important to business. After interviews are completed and questionnaires reviewed, the Government Relations Executive Committee makes endorsement recommendations to the board, which makes the final selections. Two-thirds of the board members present at the meeting where endorsements are decided must agree before an endorsement is made.

At the Alliance, we value our working relationships with the region’s elected leaders.  In my opinion, the endorsement process helps to foster and maintain those relationships. Throughout the process, we hone in on candidates’ past leadership experience on important business initiatives, their focus on economic development and job creation, and understanding of the role business plays in the region. The Alliance also makes contributions to several of the candidates we endorse through our Political Action Committee.

We will continue to stay engaged in the issues and races impacting the Portland region. If you have any questions about our endorsement process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In other news, the Alliance’s largest networking event of the year, its Annual Breakfast, is coming up on April 29. The event is sold out, but if you haven’t bought your ticket yet, there is room on the waiting list. Please contact Events Manager Jose Rivas for more information. I look forward to seeing you there.
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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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Upcoming legislative priorities for the February session February 2014
By Gregg Kantor

The Alliance is working on two major priorities this legislative session: the Columbia River Crossing/I-5 Bridge Replacement Project and Oregon Health & Sciences University’s (OHSU) request for $200 million in state bonds to build two new facilities for the Knight Cancer Institute in South Waterfront. Both of these issues have significant economic potential for the region, and we could use your help in moving them forward.

The Oregon-led option of the Columbia River Crossing/I-5 Bridge Replacement continues to be the business community’s number one transportation priority. The project has been technically, administratively, operationally, legally and financially vetted by experts, and the state must now decisively move the project to construction or refocus and reprioritize resources. Governor John Kitzhaber has indicated that without decisive action by the Legislature by March 9, and the state of Washington by March 15, he will direct ODOT to close the project and begin archiving materials.

This is essentially Oregon’s last chance for a new bridge for at least the next decade. For more than 10 years this project has been analyzed and planned, and the state has spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours on it. While some may question the Oregon-led option’s credibility, experts have confirmed the project is feasible and there is no alternative plan that is less complicated or less expensive.

Another priority for the Alliance this legislative session is OHSU’s request for $200 million in state bonds to construct two new facilities for cancer research. If approved by the Legislature, the bonding will be part of the effort to match the $500 million Knight Cancer challenge grant. This investment is an unprecedented opportunity for the region to make Oregon a worldwide center for cancer research. It’s one the business community should champion, as it will support new family-wage jobs, increase traded-sector activity and position the Portland region, and the state, as a world-class research hub.

In addition to the economic benefits, this investment has a human impact that cannot be overstated. This investment in the Knight Cancer Institute has the potential to move us down the road to more successful treatments for cancer. These days it’s hard to go through life without being touched by cancer in some sense, and, with this investment, we have the potential to benefit people throughout the world. Both of these issues will be considered during the February legislative session. We will keep you updated as they progress. In the meantime, please join me in contacting our legislators to express support for these important business priorities.
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Growing back our economy, one job at a time December 2013
By Gregg Kantor

As we approach a new year, we can move forward knowing that Portland’s economy is showing progress. The 2013 Check-Up on the Portland-Region’s Economic Health, produced by the Alliance-led Value of Jobs coalition, revealed the good news that the Portland-metro region has recovered almost all of the jobs we lost in the recession. Digging deeper, however, it’s clear that we still aren’t where we want to be, and we must continue focusing on the job-creating strategies we have prioritized over the last five years.
The new economic report, released just before Thanksgiving, focused on three measurements we have found to be important indicators of the regional economy: productivity, jobs and wages. Once again, we compared Portland-metro’s performances against the national average for metropolitan areas. We also measured Portland’s performance against three “peer”  Cincinnati, St. Louis and Sacramento, which have characteristics similar to Portland-metro, as well as to a group we call “inspirational peers,” Seattle, Denver and Minneapolis, which are larger and economically stronger than Portland.
On the first measurement, productivity, the news was quite good. Looking at the nation’s largest metro areas, Portland-metro ranked second in growth of Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP). A lot of this growth in GMP can be linked directly to our region’s strong electronics industry, especially Intel. Our GMP is truly an economic bright spot for Portland, and has captured national attention from entities like the Brookings Institution, which see that something very positive is occurring in the Portland-metro economy. A strong GMP indicates that we are poised to compete effectively in a global marketplace, so we need to work hard to hold on to that advantage. 
At the same time, however, growth in Portland-metro’s jobs and incomes has not kept pace with the improvements in productivity. As I mentioned earlier, there was good news on the jobs front: We have gained back nearly 90 percent of the jobs lost in the recession. We’re outperforming our peer regions of Cincinnati, St. Louis and Sacramento, but we lag behind our aspirational peers, Seattle, Denver and Minneapolis. Each of the latter three regions have gained back all of the jobs they lost in the recession – and then some.
Another important distinction is the kind of jobs we are growing back. Much of Portland-metro’s job recovery has been in local-sector jobs – employment tied to companies like banks, utilities, restaurants, hospitals and others that serve the local economy. Portland-metro’s local-sector jobs have recovered to the point where they actually exceed their pre-recession levels. On the other hand, looking at the important traded-sector industries -- companies that sell outside our region bringing new dollars to our economy, we still fall short of the pre-recession job numbers. Why is this important? Because they bring new dollars to the local economy, trade-based companies have a multiplier effect as they purchase goods and services from local suppliers. Our Value of Jobs reports found that for every new traded-sector job in our region, there are 2.5 local sector jobs created. Traded-sector jobs are the most important building block of a strong regional economy and, therefore, they are the focus of our economic development strategies.
Traded-sector jobs, on average, also pay better than their local-sector counterparts, which brings us to the final factors we look at in our economic report: wages and incomes. On that front, this year’s report again had good news: Between 2012 and 2013, the region saw the first increase in median household income – almost $900 – since 2008. That was great news, but we still lag significantly behind those aspirational peers, Seattle, Denver and Minneapolis, and have considerable room to grow.
Wages and incomes have been a primary focus on the Value of Jobs coalition for one key reason: Oregon is an income-tax-dependent state. If we want to grow more revenue to pay for important public services like schools, parks, public safety and social services, we must grow incomes that, in turn, can be taxed by the state. The most effective way to do that is the focus on job creation, with an emphasis on those high-value traded-sector jobs that lead to job creation in the local economy.
I started this piece by saying we are ending 2013 on a good note. Our annual economic report showed positive trends. In addition to that, we used the recession years well to sharpen our focus on what it takes to build a strong economy, and we started addressing areas where we know we needed improvement. We are proud of the work of the Value of Jobs coalition has done to shine a light on the areas where we excel and those that need attention. As I look ahead to 2014, our resolution must be to stay focused. Things are improving, but that doesn’t mean we can start taking it easy. If anything, this is a time to work harder to ensure our regional economy stays strong and competitive in a global market. I hope you will join me in that effort.
Happy New Year.
To see the 2013 Economic Check-Up and the other Value of Jobs reports, please go to
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Oregon keeps the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project moving November 2013
By Gregg Kantor

At last year’s Oregon Business Plan Summit, the state’s business community, the Governor and legislative leaders agreed on three priorities for Salem: invest wisely in education, fix PERS and build the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project.  Over the course of the regular and special sessions, with much support from the business community, we made tremendous progress on the first two objectives – PERS and education.  The last item on our “to do” list, is making the changes need to move to construction on the I-5 project and secure almost a billion dollars in federal funding support.

The project has reached some major milestones in the past two months on the path to a revised blueprint for a phased, Oregon-led development.  Federal partners including the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration both issued key letters indicating the project would not need to go through a lengthy and costly redo of its environmental impact statement.

In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a permit for the project. The permit clears the way for the project to apply for an $800 million grant for the light rail construction and low interest federal loan program to construct the bridge. Lastly, the Clark County Washington transit authority, C-Tran, approved a measure outlining how the transit agency will address the maintenance and operations of their portion of the light rail project.

Overcoming these hurdles is significant progress, and we are thrilled to see stakeholders commit to this critical transportation initiative.  A new I-5 Bridge is a catalyst for the region’s economic future as it is essentially the gateway to Portland and Vancouver’s global trading base. It’s estimated that $40 billion of freight crosses the Interstate Bridge each year – including freight that arrives at the ports of Portland and Vancouver via the critical inland waterway.  At a time when our state’s economy is recovering from a recession, our ability to export and trade with the world is the one economic bright spot that is helping to keep our region afloat. Congestion and accidents on the current bridge impact our ability to efficiently move freight. Bridge lifts also bring the flow of traffic, the transport of people and goods, to a complete stop and put our region at an economic disadvantage in the global market.

In fact, the Value of Jobs Coalition released a report last month revealing that international trade is a huge economic driver for the region, providing a significant amount of jobs for Oregonians and substantial growth opportunities for Oregon businesses. Access to the region’s global trading gateway is a pivotal piece to the trade industry’s ability to be successful and compete in the global marketplace.  A new I-5 bridge is a key driver toward that success as the project includes new interchanges to Hayden Island, an industrial land haven, and Marine Drive, which provides access to the Port of Portland.

Next steps for the Oregon-led project are underway. The I-5 Bridge staff is working toward a set of legislative hearings in the coming weeks in preparation for taking up the issue in Salem. Washington Governor Jay Inslee has expressed his support for the phased approach to construction. Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler is analyzing the bonding package and we are looking forward to seeing that report shortly. Assuming that report continues to show that the financing package is viable, risk issues are adequately addressed, and the few remaining project details get resolved, we’ll need to work together to move this project forward. It’s important for our economy, livability and the safety of drivers and river operators who face challenges everyday with the current bridge.

We have one more major task to accomplish on the Oregon Business Plan’s priority list.  With the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project as our number one transportation priority, we urge you to keep this project at the forefront of conversations regarding transportation in the region. We will continue to track the issue and keep our members updated and in the mean time, we encourage you to express your support by emailing Governor John Kitzhaber.
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A milestone for Oregon: PERS reform boosts education, small business October 2013
By Gregg Kantor

Oregon reached a milestone this week. On Wednesday, the Legislature approved a deal that will put a significant dent in the cost of the state’s Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

As a longtime supporter of PERS reform, the Alliance believes the PERS/revenue package approved by the Legislature will be a big boost for public education and many Oregon businesses, and we joined with partner business organizations across Oregon to support the package that ultimately was passed. We particularly applaud Governor John Kitzhaber and Democratic and Republican legislative leaders for working tirelessly to arrive at this package and then put together the votes to get it passed. At the end of the day, a majority of legislators did the right thing for Oregon and said yes to addressing an issue that has plagued the state for decades.   

The new PERS reform will reduce the state’s unfunded PERS liability by some $4.6 billion, and alleviate the continued upward pressure on PERS rates facing virtually every unit of government in Oregon. The biennial savings are expected to be almost $1 billion, and that is money that can go toward such important public services as education, law enforcement, social services and economic development. Most importantly, it eliminates the pressure on government entities across Oregon to choose between raising taxes or cutting staff and services in order to find the dollars to pay for increasing retirement-related costs.

With education as one of our top priorities, we were especially supportive of this package because of its positive impacts on the state’s public school system. The package will reduce one of the most significant cost drivers impacting Oregon schools, enabling districts across the state to add back many teaching positions and school days lost over the last few years. For Portland Public Schools, the PERS/revenue package translates to enough money for 180 teachers, for Beaverton 131 and for North Clackamas 53 (to see the impact on districts across Oregon, click here). This is a huge improvement for an education system that is lacking the resources essential to preparing the next generation of workers.

We are also pleased to see that the revenue component of the plan brings much needed tax relief to small businesses across Oregon that file as S-corporations or LLCs. We believe this will lead to a focus on new business investment and grow much needed jobs in every corner of our state. We would have preferred that the revenue bills that were part of this effort included no tax increases on any segment of the business community, but we recognize that the deal that was struck, on the whole, was good for Oregon and needed to move forward.

Change like this doesn’t come easily. There was huge pressure on the Legislature to vote no on this package of bills, especially from existing PERS retirees and public employee unions.  We don’t deny that the this reform has a human impact, but even with the changes – which primarily are limits on the annual PERS cost-of-living increases -- Oregon’s public employee pension plan remains very generous.

At the end of the day, it was strong and courageous leadership that got these bills passed. Please take a moment and thank those leaders, Gov. John Kitzhaber, Senate President Peter Courtney (, Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli (, House Speaker Tina Kotek ( and House Republican Leader Mike McLane (

Next up: A special session to deal with the Columbia River Crossing, another Alliance priority. We will keep you informed as that issue progresses.

Thank you to all of our members who reached out to state leaders over the past several months as this package was developed. I encourage you to reach out again and say thank you for their work on this important and needed reform.

On another topic: As you probably know, the Alliance board of directors voted in September to support marriage equity for all Oregonians. This is consistent with positions the Alliance and its predecessor organization, the Portland Chamber of Commerce, have taken in support of equity.

Because there is no marriage measure currently approved for the ballot, we have not endorsed a specific ballot title or campaign and, at this point, we are not participating in a campaign. We did, however, say we would look at participating in a business-led effort to support the marriage equity movement. We will keep members informed if such an effort evolves.
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Strengthening public education in our region August 2013
By Gregg Kantor

With summer coming to an end, many of you are getting your children ready for the new school year. Public education, particularly K-12, in the Portland region has been at the forefront of conversations lately as many school districts have faced ongoing budget challenges; bond measures and operating levies have been on the ballot, and recent audits have shown that more needs to be done to boost high school graduation rates and student achievement. The Alliance has been involved in many of these discussions, endorsing education funding measures and advocating for ways to improve educational outcomes for all students.

Portland businesses, and the Alliance, have a long history of supporting education. In 1905, before any conclusive data was published on the connection between education and economic health, the Portland Chamber of Commerce (one of our predecessor organizations) began awarding student scholarships. From that point on, the business community has been a critical community partner, helping to fundraise and advocate for schools, supporting ballot measures, and steadfastly arguing in Salem that a sound education system is the most important building block in Oregon’s long-term economic well being.

In Salem, we have supported the education reform effort led by Governor John Kitzhaber, and stand behind efforts to ensure we can meet the ambitious 40-40-20 goal, which calls for having all Oregonians graduate from high school by 2025, with 40 percent of those graduates going on to complete two-years of post secondary work and another 40 percent obtaining a four-year degree.

Here in Portland, we helped establish the Cradle to Career Council (C2C), which I now co-chair. Managed by All Hands Raised, C2C looks at all the factors impacting student success, from the time they are infants all the way through their post-secondary work, and creates a venue where the community can work in concert to improve student outcomes. C2C is an exciting concept, the first of its kind in Oregon, and the Alliance is at the table.

Several of our Value of Jobs reports have shown the connection between education and the prospect for earning higher wages and incomes that can support families. We’ve shown how training in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can lead to better paying jobs, and how we have a deficit of graduates in business fields.

Additionally, with recent data showing that one out of every four Oregon children was living below the poverty line in 2011, we need to ensure that education investments are spent wisely, so that they actually make it to the classroom and are focused on efforts that impact student achievement.  The most effective anti-poverty program is a quality education that will lead to good jobs.

One specific education issue the Alliance is currently looking at is the ongoing contract negotiations between the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), the union representing district teachers, and Portland Public Schools (PPS). The Alliance’s Education Committee, led by Chris Denzin, Alliance board member and the vice president and general manager of CenturyLink, is working with PAT and PPS to understand the issues encompassed in the contract discussions with a goal of positioning the Alliance with partners to advocate for a contract that better serves the interests of students and the community.

Despite recent milestones in education reform, our community faces major education challenges, including unacceptably high drop-out rates and a growing gap in academic achievement between students of color and their white counterparts.  We believe the outcome of the contract negotiations will have an impact on Portland Public School’s ability to achieve improved educational outcomes for all students and address issues like the achievement gap and the drop-out rate, and ultimately help create a better economic future for all of the children of our community.

Thanks to your continued support, we are able to prioritize initiatives like education reform, working with our partners and the larger business community in advocating for change.
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New chair focus' on growing jobs and a healthy downtown July 2013
By Gregg Kantor

Now into its new fiscal year, the Portland Business Alliance has a new set of officers, including myself, the chair of the board. I’m excited to lead the region’s leading business organization and support Alliance members in a variety of capacities. Throughout the next year, the Alliance will focus on its number one priority: Private-sector job retention and growth.  We will also continue our work, with our partners at the Clean & Safe District, on downtown livability issues.

The Alliance supports private-sector job retention and economic growth through Value of Jobs, which tells the story about how private-sector job retention and growth support a healthy and prosperous region.  The Value of Jobs Coalition’s work, which includes eight economic studies, candidate questionnaires and a voter scorecard, has changed how policy-makers, civic leaders, others in the business community and the general public talk about the economic health of our region.

We are working with the Value of Jobs Coalition on a schedule of new studies for this fiscal year, which include topics such as international trade, healthcare, and of course, our annual economic check-up. It is our hope that our members continue to stay engaged in the campaign by making it part of every conversation related to economic and job growth.

Along with job growth and economic vitality, the Alliance will continue to be deeply engaged in the issues affecting downtown livability. As the region’s leading business organization, we understand the importance of a strong, vibrant downtown and, therefore, make it a priority to advocate for nothing less. One way we are working to accomplish this is by strategizing with Mayor Charlie Hales on ways the city can better manage sidewalk behavior. We want to ensure that people suffering from homelessness get access to the services they need and that downtown sidewalks are accessible for everyone. This dual approach will help make downtown an even better place to live and work.

A big part of job growth and downtown livability comes from downtown retail development. This past year, we’ve seen an influx of more than 30 new local and national retailers in downtown, including CityTarget, Microsoft, Tasty & Alder, Michael Kors, Raven and Rose, among many others. In fact, CityTarget opened last week to the public.  At its opening, I spoke about what a great asset retailers, like Target, are to our city.

These new local and national retailers, restaurants and employers are evidence of the positive trends we are seeing downtown.  The Clean & Safe District released two reports earlier this month showing the strength and vibrancy of downtown: The annual pedestrian count showed a three percent increase over last June 2012, and the yearly Development/Redevelopment Report highlighted a healthy pipeline of projects completed, under construction or on the drawing board for central city. These reports are helpful in gauging economic vitality and recruiting new business to downtown. You can read the full reports here.

Over the next year, you will continue to see us in the forefront of the conversation around private-sector job growth and downtown livability. Thanks to you, our committed members, we will continue to work to make the Portland region a great place to do business.
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Year in review June 2013
By Dennis Rawlinson

The end of June marks the end of the fiscal year for the Portland Business Alliance, and the end of my term as your board chair. So I want to take this chance to reflect on everything we have done over the past twelve months. It’s been an action-packed year, with the release of five Value of Jobs studies, the roll-out of our updated brand, the launch of our new website, and the great progress we made on a number of policy issues.

This year we also continued to build on our partnerships with statewide business associations, which has contributed to the headway we’ve made in our advocacy work. The partnership between the Alliance, Oregon Business Association, Oregon Business Council and Associated Oregon Industries led us to a number of successes in the Legislature this year on many high priority policy issues for the Alliance, including PERS reform, higher education, industrial land development and public safety reform. We also teamed up on our annual trip to Washington, D.C.

Another success this year was significant progress on our top transportation priority, the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project, by securing Oregon’s financial commitment to the project.  We are continuing efforts with partners in Washington State during their current special session and hope that we can start building this much needed new bridge.

Downtown livability was, as always through our partnership with the Clean & Safe District, a main focus of ours as well.  We worked with Clean & Safe and other partners, including Travel Portland, to move legislation to give cities greater flexibility to manage sidewalk behavior.  While we were not successful in the Senate (though we passed the house with an amazing 57-2 yes vote!), we are talking through ideas and opportunities with Portland Mayor Charlie Hales to improve the livability of downtown and ensure sidewalks are accessible for everyone who uses them.

If you pick up the theme of “partnership,” that’s on purpose. The Alliance believes we are stronger when we work collaboratively with partners like the ones I’ve mentioned above and others, including Greater Portland Inc., Grow Oregon, Central City Concern, Transition Projects, Portland Development Commission, Venture Portland, and so many others. We all come together to build a stronger community, with more jobs and better incomes for the families who make Portland metro their home.

The work we’ve accomplished this past year, on our own and with our partners, is a testament to our dedication to our members. We recently completed our annual membership survey and received some great feedback. The results show that 85 percent of members are on track to renew, which is consistent with previous surveys.  The results also revealed that 92 percent would recommend membership to another business, an increase from last year. We are also seeing a much better sentiment among members regarding the state of the economy and how they feel their business is doing. Lastly, our Value of Jobs messages continue to resonate and we will focus on expanding our reach with the release of additional economic studies in the coming year.

I’d also like to congratulate Mark Petchey of Faithful+Gould for winning the 2012-13 membership survey Southwest Airlines ticket giveaway! And thanks to everyone who submitted feedback; your responses are valued!

Leading this organization over the past 12 months has been a wonderful experience and I have the Alliance board and its entire membership to thank for that. I am leaving the organization in excellent hands with Gregg Kantor, President & CEO of NW Natural, as the incoming board chair. Gregg will be an outstanding leader for the Alliance.

Thanks again to the Alliance board of directors and all of its members. With your ongoing support and involvement, I know we can continue to make an impact to strengthen the business community and improve our region’s quality of life.
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From annual milestones to a focus on membership May 2013
By Dennis Rawlinson

This past month was a busy one for the Portland Business Alliance. We accomplished a lot – from unveiling an updated logo and tagline, launching a new website, hosting a successful Annual Breakfast and taking more than 40 people on our annual trip to Washington, D.C.

Our Annual Breakfast event celebrated more than usual this year. Not only did it attract more than 1,000 business and civic professionals and featured keynote speaker, Kevin Stein of Precision Castparts and PCC Structurals, it also highlighted the reveal our updated brand. For those that weren’t able to attend, I invite you to watch the video that unveiled our new look. On top of all that, we launched a new website!

And the annual Washington, D.C. trip was also a bit different this year.  For the first time, the Alliance teamed up with its statewide business association partners, Oregon Business Association, Oregon Business Council and Associated Oregon Industries, on its annual trip to Washington D.C. A group of 40 representatives met with federal legislators and administration officials to discuss a few of the priority issues identified in the Oregon Business Plan. With two days in the nation’s capitol, the group organized meetings with Oregon and Washington delegations to discuss the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project, the Portland Harbor Superfund and federal forest management.

A trip highlight was during a visit with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss the I-5 bridge. The group was encouraged to hear Secretary LaHood describe the I-5 bridge as, “A project of national importance.” With this on the federal agenda, we hope that Washington will soon approve the necessary funding to move the project forward. The group also heard from a team of experts from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The new Deputy Assistant Secretary of Manufacturing, Chandra Brown, (formerly head of United Streetcar and Vice President of Oregon Iron Works), put together an interesting discussion around federal trade policy.

With these milestones behind us, we are renewing our focus on driving membership. So far during the 2012-13 fiscal year, we’ve gained more than 200 new members! We would like to invite you to participate in helping us close out this year strong. One way you can help is to partake in the Alliance’s Alaska Airlines Membership Referral Program. Simply refer a member to the Alliance by June 14 and if your referral is not already a member, you’ll be entered to win two tickets on Alaska Airlines. We’ll draw the winner at the June Forum on the 19. Register for Forum.

Lastly, we’re in the process of conducting our Annual Membership survey. Your responses help us identify ways we can better serve our members and we encourage you to provide suggestions on ways we can increase the value of your Alliance membership. Thanks to those who have provided feedback so far; I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
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2013 Annual Breakfast features business leaders; Alliance unveils its new look April 2013
By Dennis Rawlinson

Annual Breakfast 2011

The Portland Business Alliance is busy preparing for its biggest event of the year, the 2013 Annual Breakfast on May 14. Annual Breakfast is one of the largest gatherings of business and civic leaders in the region, attracting roughly 1,000 business and civic leaders. It’s a celebration of not only where the Alliance has been, but
also where we’re headed.

This past year we’ve done a significant amount of work around our Value of Jobs initiative. We’ve released a number of economic studies, including one on the region’s traded-sector, another on market-ready industrial land availability, its annual economic report and most recently, a report on higher education and income levels. The Value of Jobs Coalition’s work continues to shape how policy-makers, civic leaders, others in the business community and the general public talk about the economic health of our region. 

Another big achievement over the past year is our updated brand and new website, which will be fully unveiled at Annual Breakfast. With a ten-year-old logo, tagline and website, the Alliance’s brand identity was in need of an update to better reflect what we represent. Our hope is that the refreshed brand will showcase the Alliance as a trusted organization, resource and partner that is working to strengthen the Portland region. We’ve been releasing pieces of the new logo and tagline in teaser emails and social media posts over the past month. From these small previews, I hope you can see that we’ve taken our brand in a fresh and contemporary new direction.
All of this wouldn’t be possible without support from members of the business community. At Annual Breakfast, we recognize some of these contributors for all the work they’ve done to make the Portland region a great place to do business. This year, we are honoring Preston Pulliams, the soon-to-be retired President of Portland Community College with the Community Champion Award.  We will thank him for his dedication to improving the region’s educational attainment and for being an innovative community leader and great partner of the Alliance.

We will also recognize the contributions of Charles Wilhoite of Willamette Management Associates with the President’s Award who has served in a number of roles on the Alliance board as well as many other business and civic organizations in the state and region.

The main draw of our Annual Breakfast, however, is always the keynote speaker.  Over the years, we have heard from more than a dozen dynamic and thoughtful business leaders who have shared insights into their business and industry.  This year is no exception as Kevin Stein, a leader at one of the Portland region’s Fortune 500 companies, Precision Castparts Corp, will address the audience.  We look forward to hearing all that Kevin has to say. 

We hope you’ll be able to join us for all of this and more at the Annual Breakfast. We still have a limited quantity of tickets available; contact Jose Rivas if you’re interested in attending. And, our new website will be live May 14, so be sure to have a visit!
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Value of Jobs study connects educational achievement and Portland-metro incomes March 2013
By Dennis Rawlinson

As you may know, the Value of Jobs Coalition released a groundbreaking study last week comparing Portland-metro’s incomes and educational achievement. The results were surprising, identifying that college-educated workers are the largest contributing group to Portland-metro’s $2.7 billion earnings gap. The study received a substantial amount of local media coverage and initiated quite a conversation on The Oregonian’s website. I encourage you to read the comments and join in on the conversation.

The study is part of our ongoing Value of Jobs campaign, which started in 2010 when we identified that this region suffered from a long-term decline in wages and income. Where we once had per capita incomes that topped the national average for metro areas, we started to fall in the late 1990s and have now plateaued at below average. Since 2010, we have continued to ask why, what's caused the delay and what do we do about it?

The results show that we must do more to support a business environment that will grow higher-income jobs for all workers in order to fund important public services, like education, and build a healthier economy. We need to focus on the educational aspect and ask ourselves, are we preparing students for a good mix of careers? And, are we creating an environment that fosters job growth so that jobs are available for Portland-metro workers?

We’ve learned from this study that improving incomes is crucial for improving Oregon’s education enterprise. We are an income-tax-dependent state, therefore if we want more money for schools, we need better incomes that yield tax revenue to the state. The report showed that roughly $110 million would be available to K-12 schools in Oregon if Portland-metro’s workers earned the same amount as the U.S. metro average, which could fund more than 1,200 teachers.

The report’s results are a call to action for all Oregonians to focus on what makes a difference in growing an economy as a strategy for growing higher-income jobs for all workers. As the voice for business in the region, the Alliance will continue to explore these issues and look for answers while fueling the conversation about growing jobs and income in the region.

To support private-sector job retention and growth, the Value of Jobs Coalition, which includes the Alliance, Associated Oregon Industries, Greater Portland, Inc., Oregon Business Association, Oregon Business Council and the Port of Portland, is continuing to work on its Action Plan.  Included in the Action Plan are several key pieces of legislation are moving through the Legislature this session. 

For example, several bills related to the market readiness of industrial lands are part of that action.  These bills (HB 2284 and 2285; SB 246 and 253) would assist local jurisdictions in preparing development-ready industrial lands by authorizing partially forgivable state loans for industrial land development and grants for due diligence as well as improvements to the land use review process. The impetus for this bill came from an earlier Value of Jobs report, which showed a lack of market-ready industrial land.  We will continue working with partners to support the passage of these and other jobs-related bills this session.
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An overview of the Alliance’s 2013 legislative agenda February 2013
By Dennis Rawlinson

Now that the 2013 Oregon legislative session is underway, I wanted to share what the Alliance is working on in Salem during the next few months.  Private-sector job creation and retention is our first priority and drives everything we do.  With jobs as our fundamental focus, our key policy priorities include: a trained and educated workforce; strategic economic development; available and development-ready employment land supply; a vibrant central city; modernized transportation infrastructure; and reasonable regulation and fees.

As we do each session, we are working under the Oregon Business Plan umbrella, in coordination with our statewide business association partners – Associated Oregon Industries, Oregon Business Association and Oregon Business Council.  More specifically, we are concentrating our efforts to support the Business Plan’s initiatives on education redesign, PERS reform, corrections reform, funding for the I-5 bridge replacement project and improving industrial land supply.

It is only a few weeks into session and we have already made tremendous headway. The Oregon House and Senate passed legislation enabling the I-5 bridge replacement project to move forward. The project has been the Alliance’s number one transportation priority for most of the last decade, so this action by the Legislature is quite significant. I hope you will continue to support the Alliance as we move this bill onto Governor Kitzhaber’s desk for his signature.

The Alliance is also currently leading the charge on bills that would give local governments greater incentives to prepare industrial land for development, in the form of forgivable loans and grants.  These concepts originated from the Value of Jobs Regional Industrial Lands study, which showed that there is a lack of market-ready land for industrial development and that state assistance is needed to get these sites market ready. If developed, 12 sites could generate $217 million in payroll tax over 20 years. These bills were recently endorsed by The Oregonian’s editorial board.

Finally, the Alliance is working with municipalities and chambers across the state on a bill that would clarify a city’s authority to manage sidewalk behavior. In the city of Portland, downtown employees, business owners, residents and property managers continue to express great frustration with current sidewalk behavior in our annual survey and in a recent Portland Business Journal poll. We believe that cities in Oregon need the ability to develop engagement tools that support sidewalk use and access for everyone who uses them.

As we have over the past initial weeks, if there is a particular bill that needs some extra attention and support, we will send out an action alert.  If you’re interested in getting more involved in the Alliance’s advocacy work, I encourage you to consider joining a committee. You can find more information about our committees and the topics they cover here.

Stay tuned for progress updates around the Alliance’s legislative agenda! If you aren’t signed up for Alliance communications, you can do so here.
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Maximize Your Alliance Membership January 2013
By Dennis Rawlinson

As 2013 is now underway, I’d like to take this time to thank all of our members for their continued support. The Alliance’s efforts would not be possible without its strong membership base. In 2013, we want to make sure that you, as a member, feel that your business is getting the most value out of membership.

Wondering where to start? The Alliance has multiple ways to get involved. Popular ways to be engaged include participating on an Alliance committee, attending events, signing up for Alliance communications, saving money and following us on social media.  At Miller Nash, our employees are involved in many ways from participating in committees, sponsoring events and submitting newsletter items about the recent accomplishments of our firm.

Are you a young professional looking to get more civically engaged in the community? Are you a small business owner interested in the Alliance’s advocacy work? Are you a sustainability professional looking to learn more about the business community’s green practices? The Alliance has opportunities for all of these interests, and a good way to hone in on one is to participate in an Alliance committee. I invite you to check out the more than 20 committees that the Alliance has to offer, all of which are open to all members. Through your committee involvement, you can build relationships with industry peers, elected officials and other civic leaders.

Another way to take advantage of your Alliance membership is attending events. We host a number of events every month geared toward all different industries and interests. We offer events and programs geared toward networking, civic engagement, sustainability, young professionals, among more. With more than 7,500 people attending Alliance events each year, you can meet prospective customers and other business professionals, which may lead to future business referrals. Many of these events include sponsorship opportunities, helping to boost member visibility. Additionally, the Alliance provides members with an exclusive opportunity to host an event. which offers great exposure for your business. If you are interested in hosting or sponsoring an event, contact Jose Rivas.

An easy way to stay involved is to sign up for Alliance communications and follow us on our social media channels. You can customize which Alliance e-newsletters you’d like to receive here. And, be sure to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and join the LinkedIn Group!

In addition to getting involved in committees and attending events, Alliance members also benefit from savings on a variety of products and services.  The Alliance offers savings through its partnerships with Office Depot and the Portland Business Journal as well as through its new partnership with Comcast Business.  Additionally, Alliance members frequently post discounted rates or other special deals on the Member Savings page.  Bookmark this page today or check out the weekly deals on the bottom of the Alliance’s Friday e-newsletter: Stuff to Know. Things to Do. Ways to Save.

As always you can contact a member of the Alliance staff to help you develop the best way to utilize your membership.  The sales team, Peggy Anderson, Annamarie Kooning and the recently returned Lorri Georgeson, are here to help you and your business to be successful.  The Alliance is also excited to announce that David Thompson is its new Vice President of Membership and Small Business. Dave joins us from Alliance member and law firm, Bullard Smith Jernstedt Wilson. 

I encourage you to continue reading below to learn about what’s going on with your fellow Alliance members and submit your news item for the next issue by emailing the Liza Dossick. Thank you for your support and we look forward to a productive 2013!
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Downtown Portland has it all this holiday season December 2012
By Dennis Rawlinson

The holiday season is upon us and downtown Portland is welcoming this time of year with holiday lights, pop-up shops, and a variety of promotions for downtown shoppers. This is a prime time of year for retailers and restaurateurs, and thanks to the Clean & Safe District and our partners at the Downtown Marketing Initiative, holiday programming in downtown Portland creates the festive shopping experience of a healthy and vibrant central city.

The holiday lighting program, the idea of Alliance board member and Association for Portland Progress Chair, Clayton Hering, began more than a decade ago.  Downtown property owners and managers fund these twinkling holiday lights on more than 700 trees in downtown.  The lights are the highly efficient, LED variety. 

In addition to the lights, there were a few new features added over the past couple of weeks to the downtown retail core’s streetscape. As part of the Downtown Retail Strategy, the Alliance and the Clean & Safe District have helped fund new banners on SW Yamhill and Morrison streets branding the new Pioneer District, along with new planters containing native Pacific Northwest plants. Improvements like these help define downtown Portland’s retail core, which contributes to a greater goal of a strong regional economy.

Members of the Downtown Retail Strategy working group, which includes the Clean & Safe District and the Portland Business Alliance, recently testified before Portland City Council, highlighting the achievements of the strategy’s four-year initiative. Led by Mayor Sam Adams, the strategy had a goal of creating a clear retail destination downtown in what is now branded as the Pioneer District. Along with physical streetscape improvements, tactics included supportive marketing, targeted retail recruitment and strategic investments in redevelopment projects. And, as a result of the Downtown Retail Strategy, a recent survey disclosed that about 68 percent of the region’s residents have a positive impression of downtown.

All this and more contributes to the importance of an active and healthy downtown. Results from the Clean & Safe District’s 2011 Business Census and Survey, which were recently released, show that downtown has maintained its momentum and continues to be a great place to do business. Some highlights of the report findings include an upward trend in employment within construction and service industries.  For the eleventh year in a row, a large majority of downtown business owners feel that downtown is clean and safe.

Downtown Portland is truly the place to celebrate the holidays; I encourage you to take advantage of all it has to offer during this season.  Support our downtown retail core!

While we have been working to make downtown an extra festive place for the holidays, we’ve also been continuing our Value of Jobs effort.  We recently released our third annual regional economic check-up. I hope you will take a minute or two to read through the report and learn how our economy is currently performing.

As always, thank you for your support of the Alliance and all of its initiatives. Happy holidays!
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Rio de Janeiro for fun December 2012
By Sandra McDonough
Now we are just seven people, off for a side trip to Rio de Janeiro. What a spectacularly beautiful city! We are right on the coast at Ipanema. We are trying to hit all the big tourist attractions...this part of the trip is just for fun, except for the few economic developers from Portland Development Commission and Greater Portland Inc. who came ahead of us to talk to folks about how Portland can assist as Brazil focuses more on green development.

Oh ... And we ran into another Portland manufacturing representative looking at the potential to have operations in Brazil.

So, a few days of fun (and more good food) and then we are heading home on Tuesday. It was a great trip. Some reflections on our trade mission to Brazil will come later.
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The historic city of Ouro Preto December 2012
By Sandra McDonough
We went by bus to the beautiful colonial town of Ouro Preto, once the Portuguese capital of Brazil. It was here that gold was discovered in the 1600s and people flocked to the region. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, much of the baroque architecture has been preserved and restored, and there are virtually no modern buildings to diminish the historical feeling of the town.

Much of the city, and all of the mining industry that was spawned, was built on the backs of African slaves. That sad legacy is very apparent here.

On the two-hour drive here we saw a lot of mining activity still underway. Brazil is rich in iron ore and other minerals, and in the area of Ouro Preto, there is still mining for precious and semi precious stones, which vendors offer in the open air markets and finer shops.

We returned to our hotel happy that we made this side trip to Ouro Preto, which is truly a beautiful spot.
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ESCO and then onto Ouro Preto December 2012
By Sandra McDonough
Today, we visited ESCO's plant just outside of Belo Horizonte, where we were joined by CEO Cal Collins and Senior Vice President (and Alliance board member) Jon Owens. ESCO has plants in this region, as well as Northern Brazil, both mining center. ESCO manufactures engineered "wear parts" for mining equipment, those big buckets and diggers at the end of excavation machines. Some are huge.

Their strategy is to locate near their customers, which means they are near mining centers, like Minas Gerais, the state that includes Belo Horizonte. They are in most of the global mining centers, on six continents and 21 countries. ESCO was founded in NW Portland in 1913 and in the last couple of decades they have grown into a major global company.

Brazil exemplifies their strategy. They entered the country in 2007 through a joint venture, and then bought 100 percent of the operations in 2009. They have brought their "lean" manufacturing model and continuous improvement practices to Brazil, and now the plants here are are among the best performing in the company. They have also innovated a practice in Northern Brazil of embedding a team with their customers in the field where mining operations are occurring to make repairs more efficient. Their philosophy: they sell solutions, not just parts. As a result, their market share has grown.

ESCO has more than 500 employees, including 350 in Belo Horinzonte. The workforce is young, with an average age of 33. The plant is run by a Brazilian recruited from one of their mining companies, and the entire team clearly loves working for this great Oregon company.

That was the end of our working tour. Tomorrow: we are off to Ouro Preto, a historic UNESCO site, then to Rio for a couple of days of fun!
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Tour of ESCO December 2012
By Sandra McDonough

The trade mission delegation toured the ESCO plant in Belo Horizonte.
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Tour of ESCO in Belo Horizonte December 2012
By Sandra McDonough

Delegation members Steve and Marsha Strauss touring ESCO's facility in Brazil.
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Traveling to Belo Horizonte December 2012
By Sandra McDonough
We traveled from Curitiba to Belo Horizonte today, spending most of the day en route. Belo Horizonte is northeast of Sao Paulo, but much further inland and at a higher altitude. With 2.5 million people, it is Brazil's third largest city and the capital of Minas Gerais, Brazil's second-most industrialized state, after Sao Paulo.

The area was the site of  the world's first gold rush, which brought immigrants - and  slaves - to the area. Brazil's slaves were freed some two decades after the U.S. abolished slavery with the 13th amendment, and because of that history, Brazil's population today strongly reflects that African heritage. In fact, the demographics look much like ours, a mix of Caucasians, Africans and Asians, with still a mix of original native tribes.

We are here to see ESCO, and tomorrow will tour their plant. Since ESCO produces mining-related equipment, it makes sense that they are here in what continues to be a major mining center.
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A visit to Blount in Curitiba December 2012
By Sandra McDonough
Today we flew to Curitiba, a city of 1.8 million southwest of Sao Paulo. Like Portland, Curitiba is known as a sustainable city - Brazil's greenest - with a great mass transit system and a commitment to recycling. We sure didn't see that in Sao Paulo!

Curitiba also has a history of commitment to job development through the encouragement of industrial development. We were here to see the Brazil operations of Blount Industries, which is headquartered in Southeast Portland.

This plant has a great history! It was developed in the mid 70s when Blount leaders (then the company was Omark) were in Brazil looking for potential development sites and they had plane trouble. They landed in Curitiba, went to a hotel and mentioned what they were in Brazil to do. The hoteliers told them about an industrial park being developed in Curitiba, they checked it out, and remain their today, employing 320 people.

Blount is a global company; in fact, about 90 percent of the saws on the planet have chains produced by Blount. The Curitiba plant primarily produces chains, and much of their product is shipped to customers in Latin America. But they also ship worldwide, to the U.S., Europe (including Russia), Africa, Asia and elsewhere. One of their brand names is  "Oregon," and our group loved seeing boxes with that "Oregon" logo coming off the line in Berlin.

One of our trip participants is Scott Dawson, dean of the Portland State business school. They designed and managed an executive training course for Blount in Portland, and we were thrilled to learn the head of this Brazil plant, Valdir Viana, spent time in Portland to complete that course. And we met another plant leader who is heading to Portland and Portland State University early next year! It is a small world!
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Consul General Reception December 2012
By Sandra McDonough

Metro Councillor Carlotta Collette welcoming everyone at Consul General Dennis Hankins' home.
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Delegation in Curitiba December 2012
By Sandra McDonough

The delegation toured the Blount Industrial facility in Curitiba, Brazil. Blount is headquartered in Southeast Portland.
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Port of Santos and Consul General Reception December 2012
By Sandra McDonough
Today was cool. We left Sao Paulo and headed east to the Atlantic Ocean and the Port of Santos for a visit arranged by our friends at the Port of Portland. The trip from Sao Paulo's higher altitude location took us down a mountain road that had the longest and steepest set of switchbacks I have ever seen. It is the same route taken by the container trucks carrying cargo to and from the port, so it  is busy and slow. But trust me, except for the suicidal motorcycle riders, you wouldn't want to take this road fast.

The Port of Santos is huge. It is South America's busiest seaport, and two thirds of Brazil's GDP moves through there. Our group heard from some of the private terminal operators, and then got a sea view of the port aboard a boat commissioned just for us. Interesting thing about this port: the rail service is minimal because years ago, the government - probably trying to maximize jobs - chose to focus on trucks not trains. So, the vast majority of that huge amount of cargo goes in and out aboard thousands and thousands of trucks - on the limited highway system. The result: it is taking longer for product to get to market. As Bill Wyatt pointed out, you can built great port terminals - and Santos has great terminals - but if you don't have an efficient way to move to or from the terminals, things won't running as productively as they should.
It's all about the infrastructure.

We headed back to Sao Paulo for a reception at Consul General Dennis Hankins' very beautiful residence. We were joined by about 30 participants in the University of Oregon's executive MBA program, who are also spending a week in Brazil. What a coincidence! They are our neighbors at the 200 Market Building! We also had the opportunity chat with several Brazilians who were there, including representatives of the city. We invited them all to Portland!!!

Tomorrow, we head for the city of Curitiba and a visit with Blount Industries.
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Delegation in Sao Paulo December 2012
By Sandra McDonough

From left to right: Marsha Strauss, Greg Hall of Century 3, Inc., Steve Strauss of Glumac and John Russell of Russell Development Co.
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Nike and Wieden+Kennedy December 2012
By Sandra McDonough
Sao Paulo is huge! Some 18 million people in the metro area. Brazil is the 6th largest economy in the world, and Sao Paulo is its economic hub, accounting for 65 percent of the country's GDP. We started today with a briefing at the U.S. consulate, where we also met representatives of the American Chamber of Commerce here. They have more than 4,000 members, and 84 percent of them are Brazilian companies that want to do business with the U.S.

What we learned is that Brazil has a huge job ahead of it: over the last couple of decades, this economy grew at a remarkable pace, driven largely by consumer spending and growth of their middle class. But that economic growth has slowed, and now leaders realize they need to focus on infrastructure, education and tax reform to move the country forward. Sound familiar? That's our focus as well, but Brazil is dealing with even bigger needs and a larger population. Only 3 out of every 100 school children will finish college. Traffic is a nightmare and mass transit is inadequate. They have a long ways to go. Unemployment is only 4 percent, but while the country is seeing rising wages, they are also experiencing declining productivity, another problem that has to be addressed.

Two of our presenters were from Oregon! Tom Hanson, commercial service officer at the consulate, is a University of Oregon graduate, and Joel Alley, a consular officer who handles visas, graduated from Oregon State and has a master's degree from Portland State University. Brazil, by the way, has more U.S. visas issued than any other country in the world.

Finally, we had a huge treat when we got to meet both Nike and Wieden+Kennedy representatives here who told us about doing business in Brazil.

Nike came to this country in 1990 when it first opened its doors to imports. Today, Nike employs 600 people directly in Brazil, and it has contract production plants that employ another 11,000. Some 50 percent of the Nike products sold in Brazil are made here. Nike sponsors the national Brazil soccer team and makes their trademark yellow shirts. And Nike will be a sponsor of the 2016 Olympics, which will be huge.

Wieden+Kennedy, meanwhile is relatively new here, less than two years. But in that time, they have grown into a full service office, serving international clients like Nike and new ones they are developing. We got to see an ad W + K developed for Nike in a Brazilian campaign launched just yesterday! It was great.

One last fact: this is a social media nation! Brazil is second in use of Facebook and Twitter and there are more mobile devices than there are people here!
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Sao Paulo soccer match December 2012
By Sandra McDonough

Some of the Brazil trade mission delegates arrived in Sao Paulo in time to take in a soccer game between Sao Paulo F.C. and the Corinthians. Pictured from left to right: Tom Imeson, Sandra McDonough, John Russell and Scott Andrews.
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Travel and a soccer match December 2012
By Sandra McDonough
In Brazil! After long flights from Oregon, two dozen Portlanders have collected in Sao Paulo for the start of our weeklong fact-finding trip Brazil. Why Brazil? It is one of the world's fast growing economies and, over the next few years, it will be front and center on the world stage as it hosts the World Games in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

Several Oregon companies already have a strong presence here, and we will visit with some of them about doing business in and with Brazil. And there is opportunity to grow more an even stronger connection, which will be explored by Greater Portland Inc., the Portland Development Commission and Business Oregon as part of this trip.

But first a taste of Brazilian culture: 12 of us went to a soccer game and it was wild! Soccer is, of course, the national sport and the fans are wild - basically, the Timbers Army, but multiplied in numbers by at least five. Luckily, the local Sao Paulo team won, so our section went home happy!

After the game, we went out for a traditional Brazilian barbecue dinner. Think meat. Lots of meat, carved from skewers at your table, nonstop, until you say you are done. Luckily, there was a salad bar for our vegetarian cohorts!

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Trade delegation prepares for mission to Brazil November 2012
By Sandra McDonough
In just a couple of days, I will be leaving for Brazil with a group of business and government representatives from Portland. We have a busy agenda planned for the seven-day trade mission, filled with visits with government officials, recruitment prospects, and representatives of American companies doing business in Brazil. We hope to strengthen connections between businesses in the Portland region and Brazil.

We’ll kick off the trip in São Paulo with an embassy briefing on Brazil’s economy. We will then visit with representatives from Nike, Wieden + Kennedy, and Sustainable Hub, a Brazilian consulting firm. Our last stop in São Paulo will be at the Port of Santos, Latin America’s largest container port, where we will hear all about Brazil’s primary exports. Next, we’ll head to Curitiba to visit with representatives from Blount Industrial. Lastly, we’ll arrive in Belo Horizonte to meet with ESCO Corp.

I’ll be joined on this trade mission with representatives from:
  • Business Oregon
  • Century 3
  • ESCO Corp.
  • Glumac
  • Greater Portland Inc.
  • Metro
  • Melvin Mark Properties
  • Pacific NW International Trade Association
  • Port of Portland
  • Portland State University
  • Portland Development Commission
  • State of Oregon
I’ll be posting about our progress throughout the trip, so stay tuned for updates!
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Trade delegation heading to Germany March 2011
By Sandra McDonough
Very shortly, I will be heading overseas to Germany with a group of business and government representatives from Portland. We have a busy seven days in Germany, visiting companies that already do business in Oregon and meeting with companies with which we’d like to build connections.

The Alliance’s International Trade Study showed how much our region depends on international trade, and that Germany is Oregon’s ninth largest trading partner. So I’m really looking forward to the opportunities this trade mission will present for the Portland region!

We’ll start the trip off with an embassy briefing on Germany’s economy, which is the world’s fourth largest economy. Then we’ll travel to cities including Dresden, Nuremburg and Stuttgart, where we’ll visit Siltronic, SolarWorld, Adidas, Daimler and other companies learn about the Oregon-German trade connection. We’ll also meet with economic development officials from Bavaria in Munich to strengthen recruitment efforts and partnerships.

We have a great group on this trip from:
  • Bank of America
  • Business Oregon
  • Century 3
  • City of Portland
  • Greenlight Greater Portland
  • Metro
  • Pacific NW International Trade Association
  • Port of Portland
  • Portland General Electric
  • Portland State University
  • Portland Development Commission
Stay tuned to this blog and I’ll post photos and keep you updated on the trade mission’s progress!
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Measure 97; the hidden sales tax on steroids October 2016
By Sandra McDonough

Ballots are showing up in mailboxes across the state, so it’s a good time to remind everyone why the Portland Business Alliance is one of more than 26,000 coalition members in Oregon opposed to Ballot Measure 97.

Measure 97 would be the largest tax increase in Oregon history. The proposal is a 2.5 percent tax on the sales, not the profits, of C-Corporations with more than $25 million in sales, and it would raise $6 billion in the next two-year state budget cycle, $3 billion per year. This would mean a 30 percent increase in the state general fund.

The proponents of this measure want Oregonians to believe that somehow the state will magically be able to raise $6 billion in new revenue, and no one will feel the impact. There is no free money. That just doesn’t make sense.

Even Gov. Kate Brown has admitted that Oregonians are “smart enough” to know that they will pay for this tax. I actually think we are way more than “smart enough.” I think we are very smart and we will not be lured by this deceptive promise of “free money.”

The Oregon Legislative Revenue Office (LRO), the state’s own nonpartisan economists, have said that the largest share of the cost of this measure will be passed straight through to consumers in the form of higher prices. Food, electricity, gasoline, insurance, medical care, even medicine will be more expensive because of this costly and dangerous tax.

The LRO projected that the average Oregon family of four will be hit with $600 a year in costs attributed to Measure 97, and low-income families proportionately will be hit the hardest.

In addition, an economist hired by the proponents has called this kind of gross receipts tax a “sales tax on steroids” because of the unique way it will impact the price of products. Unlike a traditional sales tax, which is levied once at the final point of sale, the Measure 97 gross receipts tax can hit a single product multiple times as it moves from manufacture to final retail sale. The 2.5 percent tax can become 5 percent, 7.5 percent, 10 percent – even more if you consider compounding. Yes, with Measure 97 you will pay a tax on the tax.

And unlike a traditional sales tax, there are no exemptions to this tax. Not one. So insurance, utility bills, food and medicine, typically exempted from a sales tax, will all be hit with this extra cost. But consumers won’t see it because the tax will be hidden in the cost of products they buy.

Measure 97 is a hidden sales tax on steroids.

At the Alliance, we certainly are sympathetic to the need to address school funding – which is why this organization has supported many, many school funding measures over the years – but we are troubled that there is absolutely no guarantee that the new revenue from Measure 97 will really go to schools. Legislators already are talking about how they will change the measure when they convene in January – and voters haven’t even had a chance to say what they think about it yet!

The truth is, once that money hits the state coffers, legislators can spend it any way they want. Measure 97 is a $6 billion blank check for the politicians in Salem.

And we are concerned about the loss of jobs. The LRO projected that 38,000 private-sector jobs will be lost if Measure 97 passes. It took Oregon a long time to get through the Great Recession and, while Portland is rebounding, many parts of our state still hurt. How can we support a tax that will reduce jobs, while creating new costs for working families?

Every major newspaper in Oregon has opposed Measure 97 because it is bad policy that will hurt Oregonians. Farmers, small businesses, educators, community organizations and many, many others are part of our more than 26,000-member coalition to defeat the measure. Please consider joining us.

To get more information, go to
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County steps up to housing state of emergency October 2016
By Sandra McDonough

On Oct. 7, 2015, one year ago, Portland City Council voted to declare a housing state of emergency. While many factors over time brought our community to this point, the declaration last fall was in direct response to two separate but connected issues: rising rental and housing costs affecting low-income Portlanders and an inadequate supply of indoor emergency shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness.
There are many people in the community working to address this issue and find emergency beds, but one elected official has consistently stepped forward with a series of small-scale emergency shelter options that, if continued, will add up to have a real impact on the crisis. This is Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.
Let’s look at the history of what got us to this place. Our community first embarked on a coordinated effort to address homelessness in December 2004, with publication of Home Again: A 10-year plan to end homelessness in Portland and Multnomah County. The plan was based on a “housing first” model that focused on finding permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, which is the right goal for any conversation around homelessness. However, as the 10-year plan was implemented, the number of emergency shelter beds in Portland and Multnomah County was reduced. While that shift away from shelters may have been well motivated, the result is that our community found itself with hundreds of people living outdoors as emergency shelters not only hit capacity but found themselves with long waiting lists. The community came to see that adequately addressing our homelessness crisis would require a continuum of options, including more permanent housing, transitional services and emergency beds, not to mention interventions like rental assistance that would help people avoid homelessness in the first place.    
Today, a long-term coordinated plan is being developed through A Home for Everyone, an effort led by Multnomah County and the cities of Portland and Gresham, that brings together faith, philanthropic and business communities, as well as service providers, to work on long-term solutions to the housing and homelessness program. (Alliance board member Simone Brooks, president of Brooks Staffing, is a participant.) In addition, the new Joint Office on Homeless Services, which combines city and county resources to address homelessness, is being run out of Multnomah County under Chair Kafoury’s leadership. This important work on a long-term solution must be supported, but in the meantime, the community had an immediate need for additional safe, indoor shelter beds.
This is precisely where Chair Kafoury has stepped up during the past year with creative solutions that have led to three new emergency shelters, with one more opening its doors this month.
These are two permanent shelters, a 134-bed facility for women and children in a former strip club on Southeast Stark Street, a 90-bed facility for women that just opened in September on East Burnside Street in Gresham and a temporary 200-bed shelter for adults in the Hansen Building at Northeast 122nd Avenue and Glisan Street. Finally, a third permanent shelter is set to open in the Sellwood neighborhood this month with 120 beds for couples.
This totals 544 new emergency beds that have been made available in Multnomah County during the past year. While this may not shelter all of the estimated 1,800 people who currently sleep outside in the Portland area, it is a dent and it is a tangible, humane response to the state of emergency.
This was only possible because the city of Portland and Multnomah County stepped up together to provide significant new financial resources to address this most pressing dilemma facing our community. And it would not have been possible if we didn’t have phenomenal service providers like Transition Projects, which stepped in more than once to open shelter capacity with very little advance notice.
I want also want to call out Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman for providing leadership on the affordable housing bond that will appear on the Portland ballot in November. If passed, the bond will enable the city to develop or preserve permanent housing for some of our lowest-income neighbors, which is sorely needed. The Alliance supports this bond, and we hope voters will as well.
Thanks also to Commissioner Nick Fish who has joined Commissioner Saltzman to build support for this very important ballot measure.
The private sector also has stepped up. We were very proud last year when the Barry Menashe Family, members of the Portland Business Alliance, offered use of a downtown office building for a temporary shelter during the winter months. And just last month, six health organizations, Adventist Health, CareOregon, Legacy Health, OHSU, Kaiser Permanente Health and Services, and Providence Health and Services, announced that they were jointly partnering with Central City Concern to provide $21.5 million to fund 382 affordable housing units.
If we have learned anything in the last year, it is that there is no silver bullet for dealing with the community’s housing and homeless crisis. But we do move forward when leaders step up to bring the private, public and nonprofit sectors together to work jointly on solutions. That is why I think it is important to say thank you to Chair Kafoury and all the other leaders who have come forward with real solutions this past year.
On the anniversary of the declaration of emergency, it’s important that we acknowledge the progress that has been made and that the business community, elected leaders, service providers and others stay at the table to keep this important work going. Swift, humane action is exactly the kind of response our community needs during a crisis.
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What can Oregon learn from Utah's success? February 2016
By Sandra McDonough
When Utah's Lloyd Pendleton came to Portland in November to talk about his state's nationally acclaimed program to address chronic homelessness, the local reactions basically fell into three not exactly complementary categories:
  • We should immediately replicate everything Utah did.
  • What Utah did will never work here, and
  • We're already doing all that.
The truth is, all three reactions, to some degree, are right. There are many aspects of Utah's successful 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, led by Mr. Pendleton, that we could and should replicate here in Portland. And we need to recognize that Oregon and Utah – and Portland and Salt Lake – are different. I am certain that even Mr. Pendleton would say we need to build a program that learns from Utah, but reflects the values and diversity of our own community.

Most importantly, however, we are not starting from zero. Portland has tremendous social service providers who have been at the front line serving the homeless community for decades. Every day, I see the work of Central City Concern, New Avenues for Youth, Transitions Projects, JOIN, Blanchet House, Salvation Army and many others. All of these groups are resourceful and innovative, and many operate programs very similar to those that have worked in Utah, including the celebrated "Housing First" model. There is also the new "A Home for Everyone" framework created by the city of Portland and Multnomah County to tackle the challenge together. I know the homelessness crisis we face today would be much worse without these organizations.

That said, there is a lot to learn from Mr. Pendleton and Utah's experience. When I think about his presentation several weeks later, what comes to mind for me are not details about individual programs but, rather, the broader values and direction that drove Utah's success. Let me share the key learnings that have stayed with me:

State leadership. In Utah, the state took the lead in developing, resourcing and implementing a 10-year plan to end homelessness, and they stuck with it. In Oregon, the plan was driven by local government, with apparently little involvement from the state, and, although there was some success, the enthusiasm for implementing the program waned over the years. Could bringing the state to the table in a broader, leadership role sharpen focus and collaboration, as it did in Utah?

One visionary leader. Utah identified one strong, established voice for its efforts in Lloyd Pendleton. A former business executive, he was "loaned" to the state by the LDS church to implement Utah's program to end chronic homelessness.  He was the governor's chief advisor and implementer for programs addressing homelessness and, although unpaid, he had the reputation and gravitas to bring people to the table and keep them there. He also had license to "uninvite" stakeholders who could not sign on to the broader consensus strategy.   

Focus. Recognizing that the issue of homeless is broad and multifaceted, Utah chose to build its initial model around one demographic, the chronically homeless, who comprised about 14 percent of the state's overall homeless count in 2005. They didn't walk away from serving others, but the primary focus of their "Housing First" effort was on the chronically homeless population, which they reasoned was a major contributor to the financial costs associated with homelessness. In Portland and Multnomah County last year, we saw that focused approach work with the federally driven effort to end veterans' homelessness. Can we learn from that and Utah's example by choosing another demographic for intense focus, gaining success, then moving to another...and so on?

Start small; act now. In addressing our community, Mr. Pendleton, in his no-nonsense way, advised us to "get a pilot going and make it happen now." Utah began with "low-cost, low-risk" programs, scaling them bigger if they worked and setting them aside if they did not. They didn't wait for a grand plan; they tried ideas out. They also insisted on a solutions-oriented mindset, focusing on how to overcome barriers rather than be held back by them.

Housing and services. Mr. Pendleton stressed that housing is the key. Utah's Housing First model (which agencies like JOIN do here in Portland) turned the traditional model on its head by putting people into permanent housing without running them first through transitional programs or rehabilitation services. Mr. Pendleton's program worked with landlords to make apartments available, and new affordable housing was developed through public programs. At the same time, shelters were not abandoned. Rather, shelter stays were limited and the clients moved to permanent housing within a month or two. Utah believed no one should have to sleep on the street, and even today there is sufficient shelter capacity to take care of everyone who needs a bed. In Portland, despite millions invested in affordable housing, we are still short on permanent housing and we actually saw a decrease in shelter beds. The result: people are forced to sleep outside.

Broad community support. Utah's efforts brought the broad community to the table: government, business, social service providers, faith leaders, neighborhood groups, landlords and many others, with Mr. Pendleton, as the governor's designate, as the clear leader.  

Funding. Clearly, adequate funding is key to addressing the homelessness crisis. But from what Mr. Pendleton said, it does not sound like Utah suddenly created a vast new revenue source for their programs. Rather, they reprioritized what they were doing and put money into programs that would yield the best results, and they jettisoned programs that didn't make the grade or map into the shared vision.
We don't want to create an impression that nothing is happening here in Portland. In fact, we have seen considerable movement over the last few months. Most importantly, shelter capacity has grown so fewer people are sleeping on the street, and as a community, we are more united than ever before in seeing that this is an issue we need to address together.   

We were very lucky to have Mr. Pendleton here in Portland, and I want to thank everyone who participated in the conversations we had with him. I took away a lot, and I hope everyone else did too. If you missed our forum with Lloyd Pendleton, You can watch a full video of his comments at the November Portland Business Alliance Forum Breakfast HERE.
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Alliance raises concerns over SDC rate increase impact on housing affordability May 2015
By Sandra McDonough
Today City Council voted 3-2 to increase systems development charges for parks.  The bottom line: increased costs for developing new single family and multi-family homes and rentals in the city of Portland, which ultimately flows through into increased rents and home prices.  Why should we all be concerned that the Mayor and some city commissioners took such an action?

Just last week the Alliance issued the Middle-Income Jobs report, which included some startling findings regarding housing affordability in the city of Portland.  It found that most of the city of Portland is out of home ownership reach for households earning less than $70,000 annually.  This problem has grown considerably over the last 10 years, as shown in the report, with once fairly affordable neighborhoods getting more and more expensive.

Maybe those at City Hall who took this action hadn't yet seen our report and come to understand what increased unaffordability means for Portland's residents and the equity agenda the city has adopted?

One would have to think, however, they have seen their own report, The State of Housing, issued by the Portland Housing Bureau in April.  That report, which focuses on housing cost and income data, found that lower income households, communities of color, single mothers and seniors face severely constrained housing options. 

By failing to take account what this decision mean for people's ability to provide homes for their families, Portland risks becoming a place that does not support its middle class residents.  This is not to say housing development shouldn't contribute to parks we all enjoy, but it shouldn't be at the expense of the very people and families that would benefit from those amenities but who struggle to keep up with the rising costs of living in Portland.
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Oregon Supreme Court Issues PERS Decision: Huge Blow to Schools, Colleges and Universities April 2015
By Sandra McDonough
I'm disappointed to report that the Oregon Supreme Court today ruled against many of the PERS reforms established by the legislature during a special session in October 2013.

The Court's ruling will have a devastating impact on schools, municipalities, fire districts, and state agencies that participate in PERS.

The decision this morning is a major blow to our schools, colleges and universities. Oregon was back on track with smaller class sizes and more days back on the school calendar due to the vision of the 2013 legislature and governor. The Supreme Court brings us back to Oregon circa 2011 with the shortest school year in the nation and reduced services across the board.

"Oregon made a generational mistake in public policy, and the Court has essentially ruled that we have to live with it," said John Tapogna, President of ECONorthwest. "That puts Oregon in a challenging economic position for the next couple of decades. Families and businesses can choose Washington, with similar amenities, but without the legacy costs of an ill-devised pension system. Washington will be able to offer better public services at all levels of government."

We will provide additional analysis of the decision in the days ahead.

Read the decision HERE.

Go HERE to read the Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO) analysis of state budget ramifications prepared in advance of the Oregon Supreme Court decision.
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Business needs a voice in city's criminal background check discussions March 2015
By Sandra McDonough
The city of Portland is looking at policies to encourage employers to reduce barriers to jobs for people with criminal backgrounds.  As the largest business group in the Portland-metro region, the Portland Business Alliance agrees with this goal, and has publicly stated that we support "banning the box," which calls for removing the question about criminal backgrounds from job applications.

That said, we also believe employers should have flexibility to look at an applicant's background when it makes sense for the job in question. For that reason, we have expressed grave concerns about the initial policy language we have seen, which would prohibit criminal background checks until a conditional offer of employment has been made. While that may work for some employers in some instances, it will not work for all.

Hotels, for example, should have broad discretion to investigate the background of potential employees who would carry master keys to hotel rooms. Hardware companies should be able to look at the background of people applying to be locksmiths. Remodeling companies should know the background of every employee they send into a client's home.

Those are all examples we have heard from members, who sincerely want to remove barriers to employment for people with criminal convictions, but also know the safety of their customers and employees must be paramount in all they do. We can't think of every single instant where a background check is important - nobody can. That is why we think employers need flexibility to make common sense decisions based on their expertise and the job in question.

We also have concern about language that establishes a "private right of action" for individuals who feel they were unfairly denied a job because of a criminal background.  We do not see how encouraging more court fights will achieve the goal of greater employment for people with criminal convictions in their background.

The advocates on this issue are sincerely motivated to help more people get work, and we absolutely support that goal. They state over and over that employers should talk to individuals with convictions, rather than immediately ruling them out, to see if the conviction history really is a problem for the job in question. We agree with that too. That is why we are puzzled that the policy language we have seen forecloses all opportunities for discussion until the very end of the process, laying the groundwork for an adversarial exchange rather than honest face-to-face conversation.

The Alliance wants to be at the table for this discussion because we firmly believe there is a plan that will work for everyone. On Wednesday, we sent this letter to Mayor Hales asking him to create a work group with representatives of employers and advocates so that we can come together to have a discussion about common ground.

Please take a moment and email Mayor Hales and the other members of Portland City Council within the next week, encouraging them to work with employers on this important issue. Voice your support for banning the box to remove a known employment barrier, but ask Council members to understand that private employers must be at the table as the plan is devised.
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Global trade revs job growth engines March 2015
By Sandra McDonough
As our city's name denotes, Portland's economy was built on a rich history of trade. In time, we have evolved from a maritime port to a multimodal transportation hub for the West Coast, and our region's dependence on the import and export of goods and services remains just as critical today as it did in the beginning. In fact, Oregon is the ninth most trade-dependent state in the nation with an increasing array of global markets at our doorstep. As we rebuild from the Great Recession, international trade, especially in agriculture, manufacturing and the service sector, will play a more important role than ever bringing economic vitality and family-wage jobs to our area.

There is a deeply rooted connection between international trade and middle income jobs here. Currently, nearly half a million jobs in Oregon are tied directly or indirectly to, or are supported by, international trade. Trade-related employment also tends to grow faster than total employment and on average, workers in export-related jobs earn 18 percent more than those in other areas. Those good jobs bolster the local market. 

Yet these statistics also illustrate that the impact can be significant if any part of our trade-based economy takes a wrong turn. Earlier this month, the Portland area lost 657 direct jobs, $33 million in wages, $83 million in business revenue and $12 million in state and local taxes when Hanjin Shipping withdrew from the Port of Portland's Terminal 6 facility, a decision that clearly was related to the long-standing labor dispute that has adversely impacted all the major West Coast ports for some time.  And those numbers don't count the ripple effect through the rest of the economy. While I'm confident port leadership will recover from the loss of Hanjin, it will take time, and in the meantime jobs, wages and tax revenues are lost to our region.

So what can we do to ensure a trade-based economic future comprised of well-paying jobs? It starts with an understanding of our economy. In January 2015, the Pacific Northwest International Trade Association (PNITA), a part of the Portland Business Alliance, the Port of Portland, and other partners launched a Year of Trade in Oregon campaign to raise awareness for the region's reliance on strong international trade from large corporations to small businesses. To learn more and to attend monthly events focused on different aspects of trade, visit

And we must keep an eye on public policies impacting trade. During the upcoming legislative session, we should prioritize global competitiveness through local infrastructure investments, tax policies, and an ample supply of industrial land and skilled labor. Equally important are national trade agreement proposals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which seeks to open new markets, grow businesses and jobs, and introduce more customers around the world to all that Oregon has to offer.

With 95 percent of the world's customers outside the United States, Oregon and the Portland-metro workers have much to gain or lose in the global marketplace. It is incumbent on us all to help ensure the story of post-recession prosperity and middle income job growth is our story.
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