Boosting tourism economy will benefit city, state

Rather than sling mud at the small, but well-funded group of project opponents (Give us a vote on public funds for bad hotel deal, guest column, Feb. 13), I would like to clarify for readers what the proposed Oregon Convention Center hotel project is really about.

This is a jobs creation initiative. Just like the convention center we’re working to promote in the long-term, the primary objective behind building this hotel is to create good paying jobs now and for the future.

Our plan is to use an existing tax on tourists — a tax that is dedicated solely to tourism development — to help more than 2,000 construction workers, tradespeople and training apprentices get hired by the project developer to build the hotel. Opportunities for emerging small businesses and firms owned by minorities and women will be required, and the developer already is working with community coalitions to establish productive relationships so when the time comes to break ground, people can get to work.

Our goal is to use our existing tax on tourists to create nearly 1,000 permanent jobs in the hospitality industry, about half at the new Hyatt Regency and its restaurant, and the rest in other tourism-related businesses.

The Metro Council, along with the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, heard from scores of workers who testified in support of the project at numerous public hearings. We also heard overwhelming support from business coalitions, tourism operators, hoteliers, restaurant owners, retailers, union members and neighbors near and far throughout this very public process.

To date, well more than two dozen public hearings, work sessions, open houses and discussions have occurred on this project. Throughout the proceedings at Metro, Multnomah County, the city of Portland and even the Oregon Legislature, the only objections raised have been by a handful of legal and political consultants paid by one hotel ownership group to derail the project.

A lawsuit filed by opponents is really a last-ditch attempt to stop this innovative and thoroughly vetted public/private project that will strengthen the state’s important tourism economy for decades to come.

I look forward to its resolution and, in the meantime, I will continue to focus our efforts on creating good jobs for hardworking Oregonians.

Tom Hughes is the president of the Metro Council.

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