BLOG: For Portland, it’s no longer business as usual – and that’s a good thing

BLOG: For Portland, it’s no longer business as usual – and that’s a good thing

My time as chair of the Portland Business Alliance board of directors comes to an end June 30. This also marks the beginning of new leadership, with Andrew Hoan taking the helm as president and CEO on June 18. It’s safe to say change is in the air.

While we are excited about these big changes and the great opportunities they will bring, I’d like to acknowledge the work the Alliance has done, not only in the past year during my time as chair, but throughout the past 14 years under the steadfast leadership of current president and CEO Sandra McDonough, who officially retires on August 1.

I’ve had the true honor of knowing Sandra for a long time and consider her to be a good friend. Sandra grew up in southeast Portland and graduated from Cleveland High School. This community is ingrained in her, and that is reflected in the work she does on behalf of the Alliance and its members.

Fourteen years ago, the Portland-metro region looked very different. The late Vera Katz was our mayor; there was no aerial tram from South Waterfront to the Oregon Health & Science University; South Waterfront itself had just kicked off its redevelopment; we had one less bridge across the Willamette; office towers and apartments that now dot our skyline didn’t exist; and there were about 400,000 fewer residents and 350,000 less jobs in the region.

During Sandra’s tenure, the Alliance helped lead and participate in some of the most important issues and developments that have made our region what it is today. And all the while, our organization grew its membership significantly.

Recent major achievements of the Alliance include launching the Portland Can Do Better campaign, which earned two national awards for its innovative approach to advocacy and resulted in a necessary change in dialogue around our homeless crisis. We also continued our Value of Jobs efforts, launching a groundbreaking statewide look at automation and the future of work, as well as greatly expanding the data in our annual Economic Check-Up to better understand how the Portland-metro compares with peer regions.

The Alliance has been a staunch supporter for a world-class education system, consistently supporting bonds and levies for local school districts and community colleges.

We recognize the lack of housing supply that drives affordability issues and have strongly supported the affordable housing bond for the city of Portland.

Responding to the homeless crisis in our community, the Alliance and Clean & Safe have partnered with Mayor Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Kafoury, as well as private and nonprofit partners like Transition Projects, New Avenues for Youth and Central City Concern, to name a few. These partnerships have added about 750 shelter beds, providing indoor options for those sleeping outside. As part of Mayor Wheeler’s recent city budget, we also supported an increase in the business license tax, which will enhance the city’s capacity to place families in permanent supportive housing and expand capacity to help those experiencing mental health issues.

We also understand the importance of multimodal transportation to families, our environment and economy, and the need for investment in our infrastructure -- which is why we have consistently supported increased funding at the local, state and federal level for capital projects, and improvements that benefit cyclists, transit riders, drivers and pedestrians.

The work, of course, will continue. Our transportation infrastructure is in need of repair and traffic congestion is increasing throughout the region. Too many people experience homelessness and an inadequate housing supply continues to impact affordability

I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of the Alliance’s scope of work and our advocacy efforts under Sandra’s strong direction. Throughout her time leading the Alliance, Sandra has achieved a great deal, but it requires bringing people together, forging relationships, and earning the respect of others for herself and the organization. Strong partnerships are what has made progress on community priorities possible.

I trust the new faces of Portland’s business community will carry on this work and continue to be a force for good in our city.