6.10.2015

Waste no time! Eurasian waste management executives study Portland's best practices

Submitted by: Sarah Iannarone
Assistant Director, First Stop Portland

The last time the U.S. Department of Commerce brought its SABIT (Special American Business Internship Training Program) to town, a delegation of construction company executives were wowed when they kicked the tires on the then-under-construction Edith Green Wendell Wyatt Federal and OHSU/OUS Collaborative Life Sciences buildings, among others. (To refresh your memory, here's the blog post on that visit.)

This time around, the Feds brought eighteen Eurasian executives from the public and private sectors to study Portland's policies and best practices for managing and reducing municipal solid waste. They met with Portland companies, industry associations, and government reps to gather intel on trends, innovations, standards, and regulations relating to collection and transfer, landfill management, material recovery, reprocessing, and waste to energy systems.

It's a good thing "Waste not, want not" is gospel to these experts, whose visit to Portland coincided with the American Memorial Day Holiday, which forced First Stop compact what would have several days' material into little more than a day. How did we cover the breadth of Portland's waste management activities in such a short time frame? We, of course, relied on the knowledge and wisdom of our local experts.


1. Creative public-private partnerships--Portland State University's Community Environmental Services program

Sarah Ivey, Community Environmental Services, explains Portland State's commitment to partnering students with local firms and organizations to gain real-world experience.
CES's partnerships include Port of Portland's Waste Minimization Team and Metro's "Fork it Over" program.
 
 2.  Local government's role in waste management--Metro and City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Paul Ehinger and Pam Peck, Metro Solid Waste Operations, explain how the Portland region manages two waste transfer stations, two hazardous waste facilities, a paint recycling facility and the maintenance of two closed landfills, under the supervision of the U.S.'s only directly elected regional council.

Arianne Sperry, BPS, shares her experiences developing rates for residential garbage and recycling as well as implementing the citywide launch of Portland’s curbside food scrap composting program.

3. Private sector innovation in waste management facilities--DHR Engineering

Joe Murdoch, HDR Engineering, outlines his firm's role developing sustainable waste management systems around the world.

Tim Raibley, HDR Engineering, highlights ways that public policy drives innovation in the North American waste management industry.


4. The next frontier in waste management--Lloyd EcoDistrict and CORE Recycling

The new Hassalo on 8th development in Portland's Lloyd EcoDistrict is taking thinking about waste to a new level.

Sarah Heinicke, Lloyd EcoDistrict, and Alando Simpson, CORE Recycling agree that "people matter" in improving waste management outcomes while growing local economies.


5. Creating wealth from waste--Nature's Needs (Recology) food composting facility


Jon Thomas, Nature's Needs (Recology), illustrates the "technology" behind his facility's composting operations.
Jon Thomas tours the delegation through Recology's Nature's Needs "open air" composting facility in North Plains. (Several delegates have similar facilities in the planning stages back at home.)


What strategies did the visiting executives take away from Portland? Creating & funding a recycling program; waste diversion and reduction; public education and outreach for changing citizen behavior; regional planning for integrated waste management; the challenges and benefits of municipal composting; innovative technologies; “waste-to-wealth” revenue generation and cost reduction and ways of creating local and regional demand for recycled materials.

What feedback did they leave behind? These executives expressed that they were likely to go home and try to bridge the gap between policy-makers and communities using outreach tool's Portland's developed. While the delegates appreciated Portland's waste management aspirations and innovations, they suggested we get even more aggressive promoting a closed loop "cradle-to-cradle" economy, "similar to what they're doing in Germany." They also appreciated getting information "straight from the horse's mouth" and admired Portland's "open source" ethos, which includes a willingness to share what works along with what doesn't. Finally, the delegates expressed thanks for First Stop Portland's study tour program, which was unique in their experience. "The connections you made for us with your local experts were priceless."



4.20.2015

Reflections from "The Magic City"-- Miami, Florida

Submitted by: Sarah Iannarone
Assistant Director, First Stop Portland

Last week, I traveled to Miami to discuss with urban scholars from around the world the dynamics of placemaking in the global city. This included a presentation on lessons from First Stop Portland about how cities learn. The audience feedback was resoundingly positive!

View of downtown from Sunset Harbor, Miami Beach
Throughout the week, I had a chance to explore Miami, a city remarkably different from Portland--culturally, geographically, and economically.

Esperito Santo Plaza, CBD
What hit me first, apart from the tropical humidity, was the diversity—people of many colors and languages and social classes moving through a shared space in a manner that seemed choreographed, as if co-habitation had been negotiated over time such that it was no longer contested but almost embraced. Wandering the streets, the Miami I experienced was likewise diverse, composed  of a wide variety of urban forms.

There was the mirrored glass and steel high-rises of the powerhouse Financial District, “Gateway to the Americas,” where the typical American central business district ethos (and street population) reigns, including the mass exodus of automobiles from parking garages, followed by an eerily quiet street life after 5pm.

4.01.2015

Student Report, Day 2: Upplands Väsby, Sweden

 
Submitted by: James Alexander
First Stop Portland Staffer

Last week with First Stop Portland, I had the pleasure of hosting a group of urban and regional planners from the municipality of Upplands Väsby, Sweden. They travelled to Portland to learn more about our best practices in building neighborhood greenways and bikeways as well as exploring how Portland has transformed social, economic, and ecologic strategies through an urban design framework.

We started our morning touring the North American headquarters for Airbnb, one of the more recent additions to Portland’s "Flat White Economy-- that creative, internet-driven new wing of the economy." Airbnb recently expanded to Portland from the Bay Area and now occupies three floors of the historic Blagen Building in Old Town with over 200 employees. Their creative, open floor plan incorporates actual replicas of Airbnb listings throughout their offices.

Meeting room at Airbnb HQ in Old Town, Portland

2.19.2015

A city with no limits? The paradox of Houston

Submitted by: Nancy Hales
Director, First Stop Portland

CEO Angela Baker welcomed us to Houston’s celebrated Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center. “Big is the only standard we have,” she told our Portland delegation. “Houston is a city with no limits.”

 Neighborhood Center CEO Angela Baker tours Marc Jolin, Multnomah County (center) and Dave Nielsen, Home Builders Association (right) through their 'wrap-around services' facility
No limits?  That’s an understatement, I thought, smugly.  No UGB, no zoning, no urban density commitments, no design review standards.  Sacrilege to everything a Portland urbanist holds dear.

But after three days of Randy Miller’s recent “best practices” trip to Houston, I had to privately eat a little crow.  No limits? Well, in Houston I also learned, it means some positives – like no limits to the size of philanthropic gifts annually contributed to hospitals, art museums and universities.  And, according to one Houston expert, it means no limits on vision or bold ideas. “We experiment a lot more here than you (Portlanders) do.” Ouch!  Did he just call Portland parochial?

James Koski (left) Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Annise Parker opens morning  plenary alongside Randy Miller (right)

12.11.2014

First Stop revists "The Myth of Innovation" on location in Brazil

Submitted by Sarah Iannarone
Assistant Director, First Stop Portland

In November 2014, I traveled to Brazil to share the Portland Story with an ambitious conference, UpWeek2014 hosted by Instituto Jourdan in Jaraguá do Sul, Santa Catarina (click to zoom in on northernmost yellow dot on the map, below).  This week-long exploration of the role of technology and innovation in social development brought together leaders from the state's university, public, and private sectors to discuss ways local governments can develop and implement solutions and promote economic development.

Like many places around the globe, Jaraguá do Sul and its neighbors hope to attract and retain tech-based companies (and the ever elusive "creative class") as part of their development strategy. Unlike many places, a contingent of local leadership (who are also First Stop Portland study tour alumni) understand the importance of civic engagement, placemaking, and public-private partnerships as central to their efforts. 

You can see, then, why First Stop Portland was invited to kick off UpWeek! with a keynote on urban innovation, Portland-style.

Now, it’s one thing sharing “The Portland Story” from a street corner in the Pearl District but another altogether to explain to an audience (many of whom had not yet heard of Portland, let alone visited) why they should care how Portland transformed from “Stumptown” of the 1850s to the “Creative City” we are lauded as today. Alongside my fellow presenters, (many from the tech industry) who approached innovation as the capacity to capitalize on the next best idea or platform, Portland's “innovation” story felt anything but. With terms like “asset-light,” “synergy,” “solutions,” and “disruptive” flying from Prezi slide to slide, Portland's steady-as-she-goes narrative of  incremental change felt megalithic in comparison.

11.20.2014

Portland's Apparel Industry: Driving Meaningful Change

Remarks given by Nancy Hales, Director First Stop Portland to the 2014 International Textile Sustainability Conference, Monday, November 10, 2014

On behalf of our entire city, I welcome you to Portland!!

Right outside and across the street from where you’re sitting - is the Willamette River. In 1843, two men, William Overton and Asa Lovejoy paddled up that river to this spot and laid claim to the site of our future city.  The fee for filing that land claim was 25 cents!  And they couldn’t agree on the name of this new city so, in 1845 – they flipped a coin to determine whether the city would be named Boston or Portland - (here’s the actual penny)! Thank goodness I am not welcoming you to Boston, Oregon!!

Two decades later, in 1864, Thomas Kay started the first woolen mill in Oregon which, in 1909, his grandsons - the Bishop brothers - launched Pendleton Woolen Mills.Today, over one hundred years later, Pendleton is a 6th generation local textile and apparel company. I’m wearing a dress curated from their current Portland Collection.

Fast Forward.  At the turn of the 20th century, in 1912 – we Portlanders planted our first official public rose garden and thus became known as the City of Roses. Also during that decade - -one of our more famous forefathers, Simon Benson, began installing free water fountains all over the city.  Local folklore insists it was an effort to “keep loggers out of the saloons at lunchtime.” Others say that it was Bensons’ effort to assure that “decent and upright citizens of Portland didn’t have to enter a tavern for a drink.”  Today there are 126 bubblers and they’re all over town, in front of taverns, micro-breweries and even city hall. When you are out in our city this week, take a sip and enjoy this pristine water that has been free-flowing from the Bull Run watershed to Portland for over 100 years.

Columbia Sportswear's "One Tough Mother" Gert Boyle presents to First Stop Portland delegation from Langzhou, China

6.26.2014

The Myth of Innovation

Remarks given by Sarah Iannarone, Assistant Director, First Stop Portland to 1000 Friends of Oregon Tom McCall Gala, June 20, 2104.

I want to debunk for you what I'm calling The Myth of Innovation, the idea that anything other than the relentless hunt for the next best game-changing idea is synonymous with complacency, stagnation, and decline. As Wayne Gretzky put it (please forgive the hockey reference in the midst of the World Cup), the mandate that we must "Skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it's been." Don’t get me wrong, change is inevitable and we must continue looking for creative solutions to problems that arise. However, I’m here to tell you that--based on the feedback I’m getting--we’re doing something right here and we need to keep our eyes on the puck at our feet.

So, who am I to tell you this?

What I’m sharing with you is based on 5 years hosting over 5000 visitors who’ve dropped by Portland to see what’s so special about this place. As the Assistant Director of First Stop Portland, I occupy an interesting position in an important conversation--learning what matters to leaders from around the globe, hearing the questions they’re asking, the answers they’re getting, and capturing their sometimes very frank feedback about how things are working here.


Debriefing visiting leaders from DaNang, Vietnam

Like it or not, we’ve become a model for the world.

As I speak:
  • 6 Oregon mayors are in Dallas, Texas presenting to a conference of mayors from around the country on the transformative power of collaboration…. spreading the message "There are no republican forests to protect; no democratic jobs to create."
  • Brookings economist Bruce Katz is applauding how "weird and crunchy" Portland just happens to be one of America's most global regions with the third-highest export intensity in the US
  • College educated individuals under 40 (the ever desirable "creative class") are migrating here at remarkably high rates--in good economic times and bad--along with affluent empty-nesters and retirees
  • The New York Times' love affair with our artisan culture continues week in and week out they gush over our "rules-be-damned style…divorced from old-school notions of propriety, service and polish"
  • And I stay extremely busy at First Stop Portland hosting the hundreds of people—from the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to the Planning Czar of Auckland, New Zealand—who visit each year to see for themselves whether what's really going on here lives up to the hype
So, does it?