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Friday, July 24, 2009

Is Portland's Economic Emperor Naked?

Posted by Matt Davis on Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 3:00 PM

PDC economic development director Erin Flynn presented the city's economic development strategy to a skeptical audience at city club today.
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Flynn last presented the strategy to council two weeks ago, and aside from a few new phrases ("here's the thing, we have to want it..."; "we do have a brand, but I think it's a lifestyle brand...") Flynn's strategy continues to lack an all-important implementation strategy, which is supposed to be coming in September.

Audience members asked some probing questions, including whether Portland should have a subway ("it's probably too late," said Flynn), whether the new strategy's focus on "clusters" might be echoing Portland's previous unsuccessful focus on other clusters like biotechnology and creative services (this strategy is "robust," said Flynn), whether Portland should look more closely at the number telecommuters moving here ("we're not tracking that, but it would be interesting," said Flynn), to when Flynn thinks the city might be able to measure the progress of its new strategy.

Flynn was asked whether the city's business finance fee is a turn-off for new businesses locating here. She conceded that when businesses are considering locating here, "that does come into play," but implied that looking at lowering the fee or negotiating that with businesses looking to move here was off the table.

Then the mayor stood up.
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"PDC has turned the corner," said Adams, telling the audience how Flynn's strategy had been received supportively by a packed room at city council. Then Adams praised the "enthusiasm that the new PDC brings to this," and said "the pieces are now in place," but that there is more work to be done.

As I walked down the stairs afterwards I asked people what they thought. "10,000 jobs in five years isn't even going to cater to next year's graduating high school class," said one gentleman. Another lady actually snorted. It was like a "pfnnnrrr" noise.

Another thing: It may have been the fact that city club took place in the larger fourth floor ballroom at the Governor Hotel today, but the ballroom's audience seemed conspicuously sparse. The high ceiling turned the room into an echo chamber, which I realize now may have been ironically appropriate.

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