"Would First Stop Portland help the White House connect with local Portland innovators?" was this week's email inquiry. Our reply? A resounding YES!
Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers (ORACW) Executive Director Jay Williams had planned travel to Portland. While here, he wanted to connect with our manufacturing sector for a conversation about the city's efforts in promoting green manufacturing and how the federal government might be able to help.
First Stop Portland rose to the challenge, convening Portland's innovators from the public, private, advocacy, and university sectors. Seated at the table were Drive Oregon, OTREC, Looptworks Manufacturing, Oregon Micro-enterprise Network, Oregon BEST, AIMCO Global, CH2M Hill, Indow Windows, ONAMI, PDC, City of Portland, Metro, and PSU's College of Urban and Public Affairs and Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Moderator Jonathan Fink, PSU Vice President for Research and Strategic Partnerships, started the session with the question "What makes Portland special?" Metro President Tom Hughes answered, "Our habit of looking for regional solutions." PSU Faculty Ethan Seltzer supported the benefits of a regional approach: "People say 'Portland' but mean the region--it's a brand."
What can Portland offer to recovering rust belt cities like Detroit or Youngstown, Ohio, where Williams served as mayor from 2006-2011?
Collaboration and innovation, affirmed the group. As Dean Renjeng Su, of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science framed it, "When ideas cross each other in a collaborative way, it results in an ecosystem that cannot be shipped away."
"We have a green reputation, but how do we stay relevant?" moderator Fink queried panel members. Portland has challenges, panelists reminded the visitors from Washington. Communities need federal support for education to build a more skilled workforce, offered Scott Hamlin of Looptworks. Small business needs technical support in the critical first six months start up period, including increased access to markets, capital, and supply chains suggested Marilyn Johnson, of Oregon Micro-enterprise Network.
Is Portland the right place for federal manufacturing incubator investment? Our panel wanted to know if our city had a chance at the same federal funds that Youngstown was awarded.
Williams encouraged Portland to learn from the Youngstown proposal as well as those put forth by cities that didn't make the cut. "With existing levels of collaboration, Portland is very competitive.... But you need to decide what your regional comparative advantage is going to be." The White House reps were impressed by their Portland visit, remarking that the city is a model for other American communities. "The region
is a laboratory. It's clear that the quality of the natural
and built and environment are high---it's a place that makes you want to