Business Tribune Column: GPI Leading the Way in Regional Recovery Planning

29 Jul 2020

GPI in the News

This column appeared in the Business Tribune. Matt Miller, Greater Portland Inc's interim president and CEO, writes a monthly column for the local newspaper. 

These last several months have been unlike any others in our collective memory as a region, nation or world. As of mid-July, the novel coronavirus had infected more than 7,000 in our seven-county, bi-state region. It has killed more than 160. 

Due to the pandemic and widespread closures that helped slow the spread of the virus, we now face the worst recession since the Great Depression. According to the latest data available from employment departments, nearly 190,000 Greater Portland residents are unemployed, and low-wage occupations tied to tourism, retail and food service have been hit particularly hard. 

What’s more, 48% of Greater Portland small business owners expect it to take more than six months for business to resume normal operations, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Census. Fifty-seven percent of Greater Portland respondents said they had less than three months of operating cash on hand, including loans or grants they had received. 

As the region’s economic development organization, Greater Portland Inc (GPI) operates under the mission to grow our economy. In good times, that includes recruiting companies to our region so they can provide good-paying jobs. Now, it means helping the people and companies in our region who need it so we can rise out of this recession stronger than ever. 

Adding new jobs (and retaining existing jobs during a recession) fuels long-term economic growth, and this growth has a domino effect on the market. Employees spend their earnings, supporting local businesses. The local government receives tax revenue from both the individual and the company, funding public amenities such as infrastructure, parks and libraries. These amenities, in turn, attract more people and companies to our region. 

To that end, GPI, in partnership with Metro, is creating a regional recovery plan that will target individuals who lost their jobs or businesses that are struggling due to the pandemic. This process is embedded in GPI’s current Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), required by the U.S. Economic Development Administration every five years and currently in development. The key tenets of both the CEDS and the embedded recovery plan are economic 
growth, equity and resilience. 

GPI has retained local consultant firm Bridge Economic Development to assist with the CEDS, including the recovery plan. 

Throughout the recovery planning process, GPI, Metro and Bridge will be meeting with a groups of individuals representing workforce, small businesses and business associations to solicit feedback on the recommendations. This includes representatives from the Columbia-Willamette Workforce Collaborative, Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO), as well as regional business associations.  

The recovery plan will be created in the following steps:

  1. Research and analysis

The central tenet of this plan is equity, so, working with Bridge and ECONorthwest consultants, we will identify the characteristics and industries of employment for people most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. We will also outline the share of closed or projected closed businesses in each industry by various business size categories. This information will provide clear direction regarding where resources should be allocated to serve those hardest hit.

2. Recommendations

The Greater Portland Economic Development District (GPEDD) board of directors, a diverse group of regional stakeholders, will review and consider a number of detailed recommended actions to support individuals who lost their jobs or business owners who were negatively impacted due to the pandemic. 
GPEDD, staffed by Greater Portland Inc, is nonprofit organization working in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington. GPEDD is funded primarily through grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

3. Action plan

The board will agree on a recovery plan, with specific actions over the next 24 months. Because many of these action items will require funding, potential state and federal funding sources for action items will be defined. The final plan will also include regional, state and federal policy priorities.