My View: Revitalized business alliance sets priorities
We are in the longest economic growth period since World War II. This historic trend of prosperity for our generation marks a powerful moment for us all.
While it gives me pause to reflect on the incredible opportunities a strong economy offers, the reality is, as a community we still have our work cut out for us to make this a place we are all proud to call home.
This month, I begin my year serving as chair of the board of directors for the Portland Business Alliance, greater Portland's chamber of commerce. It also means I'm the fifth woman to lead the board. I am not only honored, but excited to take on this incredible role.
Truly, what makes this work fun is the long list of dedicated community leaders who join me at the table.
Few may realize that the Portland Business Alliance is more than 60 board members strong. We represent leaders of our region's many different employers and leading nonprofits — bridging important conversations happening from Portland's Central City, to Vancouver, Salem, Gresham, Newberg and beyond. Of our nearly 1,900 members, we span 27 counties, 15 states and four countries. We say it often, and we mean it. We are truly the largest, most diverse voice of business in the region.
We also know there's room to grow so that all who value building a vibrant community for business are welcome and know they can work together. This starts with who's at the table and how we engage on decisions that impact all of us.
This past year, the Portland Business Alliance set a new record in overall membership, and welcomed nearly 130 new employers. More than 20% of these new members self-identify as minority, women, veteran, business/enterprise (MWVB/E).
This incredible growth in membership and diverse ownership not only makes us a better organization, but allows us to understand and engage on issues more comprehensively, and ultimately, better serve our entire community.
With a strong team of equally engaged community members, I am excited for the year ahead.
For the first time in 149 years, the Portland Business Alliance is embarking on a strategic planning process, setting the foundation for our future. After conducting stakeholder interviews and input sessions, we've landed on three pillars that will shape our work: Building a healthy business ecosystem, fostering community collaboration, and supporting innovation.
Noting these pillars, we are also revamping our policy committee structure and agenda-setting process with the goal of maximizing the involvement of our members. We want the process in which we set our policy agenda to be one that is based on a core set of shared values and driven by our members. I'm grateful to the staff at the Portland Business Alliance and their work to make this happen.
Starting this month, the Portland Business Alliance's policy committees will be responsible for developing and recommending policy priorities for inclusion in our annual policy agenda. We will also conduct semi-annual surveys of our members to gather input on policy priorities.
Our new policy committees and respective chairs include:
• Central City Standing Committee Chair: Dan McMillan, The Standard
• Education Committee Chair: Craig Wilcox, Wells Fargo Advisors
• Land Use and Housing Committee Chair: Tim Leavitt, OTAK
• Small Business Council: Diane Economaki, Fuze7 Marketing
• Technology and Innovation Chair: Jennifer Stoll, OCHIN
• Transportation Committee Chair: Page Phillips Strickler, Strategies 360
• Pacific Northwest International Trade Association Chair: Kristen Leonard, Port of Portland
The policy agenda that is built out of these committees will be designed to build bridges between members, elected officials and community leaders. This agenda will represent businesses large and small from across the region and will be unquestionably bipartisan.
I'm excited for this change because it welcomes all those who want to support a strong economy in the years ahead to be at the table. It will provide a place for those inspired by change to improve our city, region or state, and help those looking for more information on how a policy impacts their business to engage with elected officials. Finally, it will help broaden the understanding of important policy areas such as transportation, education and homelessness.
We stand at a historic moment with great opportunities to work together. While I'm grateful to the generation of leaders who came before me, I am equally as energized by those who are stepping up and in to move us into a stronger, more economically resilient future.
Let's keep building the bridges that are most essential to our community and do it by working together.
Vanessa Sturgeon is chair of the board of directors, Portland Business Alliance and is president and CEO of TMT Development. To find out more about Portland Business Alliance committee involvement, visit: portlandalliance.com/committees
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