Business Districts celebrate at OMSI

Find out why this unique gathering brought together businesspeople from across the city; mostly for fun, but also to benefit …

Leaders representing many of Portland’s Neighborhood Business District associations gather to toast the success of Venture Portland’s Celebrate our City party, held at OMSI.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Leaders and members of Neighborhood Business District associations from across Portland came to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) on the evening of February 12.

“This gathering is a celebration of our many small business districts in Portland,” explained Venture Portland Marketing Group Chair Randy Bonella, who represents the Lloyd District, and is an independent semiconductor design consultant.

ean Baker, the last President of the Alliance of Portland Neighborhood Business Associations (APNBA), the nonprofit corporation created to serve the business district associations which went on to became Venture Portland, spends a moment with the organization’s current President Brian Alfano of Unitus Credit Union – and with Marketing Group Chair Randy Bonella.

The new title of the party this year was Celebrate our City – changed from the previous Celebrate the City – because, Bonella said, “It is the neighborhood business districts that make Portland so very unique.”

About 220 people checked into OMSI’s Theory Restaurant, overlooking the Willamette River on S.E. Water Avenue, to network, enjoy liquid refreshments, and dine from a buffet of hot and cold foods.

Guests selected from a wide array of gourmet foods served by the staff at OMSI’s Theory Restaurant.

“Another reason we’re here,” Bonella said, “is to raise funds to keep Venture Portland doing what it does – supporting our districts with training, advocacy, marketing and grant programs.”

Standing, and seated at tables, members and guests enjoy the “Celebrate our City” festivities.

At the party, former Division-Clinton Business Association President, and former APNBA (the organization that proceeded Venture Portland) President, Jean Baker explained how networking with other organizations was materially beneficial to their business association during the year-long construction project in their district.

“The leadership of the Multnomah Village association had just gone through a major paving program,” Baker said. “They gave us ideas about how to keep our business district going with tips on signs, marketing, and other ideas, so we didn’t have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when our district faced the same situation.”

Selling raffle tickets at the event are Lori Boisen from the Division Midway Alliance and Bridget Bayer of Historic Parkrose Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative districts.

Although Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative areas are different, though similar to, neighborhood business districts, representatives from two outer East Portland NPI areas were on hand. Helping welcome guests, and sell raffle tickets were Lori Boisen from the Division Midway Alliance and Bridget Bayer of Historic Parkrose.

Parkrose Business Association Past President Wayne Stoll of Argay Square, and Alison Stoll, Executive Director of Central Northeast Neighbors, also attended the celebration.

Parkrose Business Association representative Wayne Stoll breaks up the room as he humorously presents the “Golden Plunger Award” to Venture Portland Executive Director Heather Hoell, commemorating how their staff survived a sewage backup in their office, shortly after they moved in last year.

“We’ve been involved with Venture Portland and its predecessor, APNBA, since 1995 on behalf of our business association,” Stoll told East Portland News. “It’s a good group that gives small businesses a united voice for City leaders, and helps us improve our business district.”

Debbie Kitchin of Interworks LLC, who also represents the Central Eastside Industrial Council, says she was thrilled to win a prize of twelve “Dine Around Portland” meals.

This year, organizers chose not to have a formal meeting or a keynote speaker, but instead allow attendees the freedom to dine, mix, and mingle at the event.

A live band provided an upbeat soundtrack for the evening that was punctuated with drawings for raffle prizes such as four “Neighborhood Eatery Experiences”, providing four lucky winners with 12 fabulous meals-for-two.

The party was also the major fundraiser of the year for Venture Portland. To learn more, visit their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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