Mayor reviews his career before Chamber of Commerce audience

See why many who attended said it seemed like Mayor Sam Adams was pitching for re-election, just days before he announced he wouldn’t seek another term. Learn what he says he believes are his important accomplishments for the business community …

This “Good Morning East Portland” session of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce begins with self-introductions, as is their custom.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
At one of the best-attended morning meetings recently of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce (EPCC), Portland Mayor Sam Adams reviewed a long list of what he described as accomplishments to benefit the City’s business community.

Just one week before Mayor Adams announced he would not seek re-election to office, on July 20, he told about 100 members and guests about how his policies have increased jobs, supported small businesses, and reduced red tape in City Hall.

Mayor Sam Adams’ remarks are edited here for brevity.

EPCC’s president, Judy Leach, with Adventist Medical Center, welcomes EPCC members and guests, before introducing Portland’s mayor.

“It’s good to be back,” Mayor Sam Adams began. “During my time as an elected official, this is, I think, my fourth visit to this Chamber of Commerce. I want to thank you for the work that you do as a group, and individually, every day to make in East Portland and even better part of the City of Portland.

“When I was sworn in to office about 2½ years ago, the City was bleeding jobs. We were in the midst of the worst national meltdown of the financial system that the country had seen since the Great Depression.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams tells about Portland’s economic development strategy.

“On the local level, we were in our 15th year without an economic development strategy.  We were in our 25th or 26th year of the Comprehensive Plan that was originally put together before about a third of the City’s landmass was annexed.

“We also had in City government, a lot of smart people working for city government.  We had dysfunction in the way it was organized. Especially in the way it was organized around efforts to help businesses, small businesses, and help folks find jobs.

“And, we had a budgeting process that did not keep track of geographic equity, in terms of how resources and capital expenditures and services were distributed across the City.”

“So, we went to work.”

He’s worked to reduce dysfunction in City Hall, Mayor Adams says.

“In terms of the dysfunction, in my first week in office, I got City Council approval to do two important things to address complaints I’ve heard here at the Chamber, and complaints I’ve heard across the City.

“First, although Commissioner Randy Leonard had done a good job of improving the Bureau of Development Services which had been a basket case for many years, there were still eight other bureaus that operated on their own when it came to permitting. We co-located all eight together under one roof to help streamline the process for folks who are trying to invest in the City.

“The other thing we did was to choose four targeted industries.”

The Mayor listed these as:

  • Athletic and outdoor
  • Manufacturing and advanced manufacturing
  • Digital and software
  • Clean technology

“Through the worst of the recession, ‘clean technology’ continues to grow as an industry – worldwide, at about 17%. Again, all of these include very small businesses.

Helping Portland companies make sales around the world helps the City’s economy succeed, Adams says.

Cites “Main Street” plan
“As you all know, 85% of Portlanders are employed in what the federal government would call micro-businesses – 10 or less employees. We needed to do more to support them. That’s why about five months ago, with help of some people in this room, we passed the City’s first ‘Neighborhood and Small Business Economic Strategy’.”

One result of this strategy, Adams said, was Portland’s “Main Street Program”, which contributes city funds to structured plans to build business districts in city neighborhoods.

“We funded an expansion of that, and will be able to do three more. We’re looking to have a district or districts apply for these funds here, in East Portland.

“When I talk about small business, I’m also including startups.  We have about 3,000 net new business licenses and the City of Portland. When I meet with these startup businesses, not every bank is giving small loans to small businesses. If you’re a brand-new business, we are one of the only cities in the United States that started our own what we call ‘seed fund’.”

Adams says that “geo-mapping” helps City Hall make more equitable decisions.

Mayor addresses East Portland concerns
“When I took over as mayor, there was no mechanism for the city to make geographically-based decisions about where services and resources so as we’re being offered throughout the city. Now we are able to see, in terms of residents and businesses, what is the city spending in East Portland.

“This was a key factor, for example, for investing a half million dollars that will match a half-million dollars in the private sector, for some of the parklands that we have acquired over the last six years.

“In East Portland, [portions of it] annexed from 15 to 30 years ago, we are making up for the fact that, under Multnomah County administration, sidewalks and street improvements were not required when subdivisions came in.  We’re working hard to make up for that lost time throughout the city.

“One of the outcomes of the geo-budgeting tools has been to make sure the East Portland has adequate public safety expenditures for the Police Bureau.  In this last budget, we came pretty darn close to making sure that East Portland, based on residents and businesses, gets per capita spending that is the same or more than the rest of the City.  This is because of our gang violence issue. It used to be more concentrated in north and northeast – I live in North Portland – but it has definitely fanned out, and we now have pockets of violence all over the city, including East Portland.”

Business diversity, Mayor Adams says, is helping the City get “on the right path”.

“I’ll wrap up by saying today, at the City Council, we will have the first two-year report on the Economic Development Strategy. The initial results are very encouraging. It shows that we are on the right path.

“It also shows how much more where we have to do – especially in the areas of neighborhood economic development – to make sure that all of our neighborhoods are complete and healthy. It shows we are making great strides in addressing some of the shortfalls like an infrastructure around the city, but there is more to do.”

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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