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ECONOMY:
Business

 



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Portlanders support businesses large and small that reflect their values.

Section Summary

Small, independent, local and unique are all qualities in businesses that Portlanders appreciate. Although people feel the city has an entrepreneurial environment that lends itself to new and innovative start-ups, there is great concern over current tax and licensing policies, which are seen as adversely impacting small businesses. As a result, many businesses are moving out of the city limits as a way to sustain themselves. People have noticed that this trend has taken a toll on downtown and other nearby areas and would like to see a much friendlier environment that helps recruit, grow and retain businesses. 

Portlanders have differing opinions on whether to spend public funds or offer financial incentives to encourage large businesses to come to our city. Some argue that in order to improve government relations with businesses and to increase employment opportunities for Portlanders, the City should provide tax incentives that attract corporate headquarters and big businesses. Others entirely oppose large corporations and chains, and believe we should actively fight to keep such companies out of Portland if they go against broadly expressed community values. Still others appreciate large businesses that give back to the community, and they call on the private sector to donate time and money to civic betterment (for instance, by providing funds to support schools). Portlanders would also like to see more commitment from companies, especially larger ones, to adopt cutting-edge, “green,” sustainable practices.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. People value the wide diversity of business and industry sectors in Portland.
  2. Portlanders value small, independent businesses as well as larger businesses that retain their connection to the community.
  3. City policies should make it easier for individuals to both start and sustain small, independent businesses.
  4. Minority businesses should be assisted in overcoming barriers to their development.
  5. Particular neighborhoods and areas of Portland need more business growth.
  6. The role and responsibility of businesses should extend into the community.
  7. Neighborhoods should have fewer businesses that detract from community and livability.

Summary of Tensions and Disagreements

  1. Should the City of Portland spend public funds on recruiting businesses to the area?

MAIN IDEAS

  1. People value the wide diversity of business and industry sectors in Portland.
  • Business sectors and industries Portlanders mention appreciating include:
    • High technology, particularly semiconductors, display systems and software;
    • Sporting goods;
    • Apparel;
    • Creative Services;
    • Nursery products;
    • The wood products industry, which has retooled to produce a diverse range of value-added wood products;
    • Portland’s market leadership in specialty foods, wines and microbreweries.

  1. Portlanders value small, independent businesses as well as larger businesses that retain their connection to the community.
  • Many Portlanders prefer to support small, independently-owned businesses that are unique to Portland.
  • However, respondents also highly value larger businesses, such as New Seasons, that embody the same traits that people associate with smaller businesses, including:
    • A concern for the well-being of their employees;
    • Awareness of the impact of their products and business practices have on the environment;
    • The willingness to pay living wages and provide employees with good benefits;
    • A commitment to giving back to the communities in which they are located;
    • A willingness to offer products that may not be mainstream, but that align with the tastes and values of Portlanders; and
    • A sense of accountability to the community that prevents them from engaging in harmful business practices.
“Small business keeps the economy going. My dad was part of a family business. There’s a sense of responsibility that comes from being local. Small business adds personality to neighborhoods.”

“Attract new businesses to build our economy. Not just anybody though—businesses that hold the values of the Northwest (love the environment, art, and are socially responsible). Don’t allow businesses to exploit our land, people, or sense of community.”


  1. City policies should make it easier for individuals to both start and sustain small, independent businesses.
  • There needs to be a balance between supporting well-established businesses and assisting new businesses.
  • Many business people say they have to leave Portland because City taxes and/or policies prevent their businesses from thriving.
  • Respondents want to see the City provide significantly more support to small businesses, emerging businesses, minority-owned businesses and businesses that employ "green" practices.
  • Tax incentives should be used to encourage businesses to:
    • Implement sustainable practices;
    • Train and hire hard-to-employ workers such as high school drop-outs, formerly homeless people and former convicts; and
    • Remain in gentrifying neighborhoods and continue to serve long-time residents.
“I wish the business taxes weren’t so onerous—lots of small businesses are leaving for the surrounding towns.”

"I am about to leave PDX even though I grew up here and it is my home town. I have a small business and I am being taxed out of my business and my home.”

“Refuse to bend over backwards to companies that threaten to leave Oregon if the city doesn’t give them whatever they want – if they care about doing business in Portland, they can put in like the rest of us, or move on! Let’s focus our tax incentives on starting and growing business by Oregonians, committed to Oregon.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. “I want to see a higher success rate for some businesses through more effective and accessible training—my dream would be to have 85 percent of small businesses succeed rather than fail.”
  2. Provide community members loans to open small businesses and increase the ones that already exist.
  3. The City should offer trainings to new business owners.

  1. Minority businesses should be assisted in overcoming barriers to their development.
  • Loan discrimination needs to be stopped, and fair lending practices should be monitored.
  • Respondents call for equal access to contracts, technical training and assistance for minorities.
  • They want to see more Black and other minority-owned businesses in all shopping districts.
  • There should be more funding available to assist minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Gentrification needs to be prevented because it disproportionately affects minority business owners and can force them to close their businesses.
"Support minority businesses, ensure fair lending practices to minorities.”

"I'd like to see a more targeted effort to have minority businesses to locate and have some sustainability in the areas that are growing so fast, such as Alberta and Mississippi Avenues."

“[In 2030] Black, Asian, Latino, Eastern European etc.. people go to the annual blues festival, they also hold positions in City government, own restaurants and boutiques in the Alberta, downtown, Chinatown, and the Pearl and they attend high achieving schools.”


  1. Particular neighborhoods and areas of Portland need more business growth.
  • People want to see businesses fill the downtown area.
  • They want businesses to thrive and generate more jobs as a result.
  • Some people imagine businesses contributing to large-scale, European-style shopping districts along the east and west Willamette River waterfront.
  • All neighborhoods should have commercial centers where businesses are within walking distance of homes.
“More downtown businesses of significant stature to create employment opportunities and generate revenue.”


  1. The role and responsibility of businesses should extend into the community.
  • People appreciate those businesses that give back to the community, and expect more to do so in the following ways:
    • Schools: Contribute to schools through funding or providing internship and educational opportunities for students.
    • Arts: Provide funding and support for the arts and establish links with creative individuals and organizations.
    • Social Services: Support non-profit programs working to alleviate social issues such as homelessness. Also, directly address these issues by:
      • Being willing to hire and train “hard to hire” individuals such as former felons and individuals with limited formal education;
      • Hiring individuals transitioning out of homelessness; and
      • Providing adequate pay and benefits to employees so they can afford a place to live and be healthy.
    • Sustainability: Businesses should have a stake in the local sustainability movement in terms of how they operate, treat employees, what products are sold and in their treatment of the environment.
  • Give incentives to employees and customers to use mass transit.
“Social good will can be an immense draw for businesses … not just gentrification or major shopping centers for the elite.”

“I would like to see the business community take a cooperative problem-solving approach rather than having a chip on its shoulder.”

"[In 2030] All middle school and high school students use public transportation because businesses contribute $5 million for bus passes for every PPS middle and high school student. This is a worthwhile investment and it will help the environment while building citizens that rely on public transportation."

Sample Strategies:

  1. “Try to link every school with one or more business sponsors. Encourage each of the 50 largest businesses in Portland to adopt an elementary school.”
  2. “Provide programs to encourage the homeless to get back into the work force. See if local business will contribute to such a program.”
  3. Businesses should contribute money to student bus passes.

  1. Neighborhoods should have fewer businesses that detract from community and livability.
  • Respondents want to see more services and basic community infrastructure such as parks and quality grocery stores in place of adult entertainment businesses and payday loan companies.
  • Some people mention wanting to rid neighborhoods of the illegal drug scene, prostitution and strip clubs, as they are counter-productive to community building efforts.
“Regulate the sex industry much more...since Portland has one of the largest sex industries in the country. These objections come from the near slave-conditions and violence that most sex industry-workers endure…”

“I appreciate that we have great freedom of speech, but am not proud of our sex industry and would like to see our image as a good city for businesses of low repute be changed somehow--preferably from within in regards to developing a healthier and more respectful moral environment around gender."

“Cleaning up the streets of drugs and prostitution and strip clubs will bring a more close community.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. The City should have zoning codes that regulate strip clubs and other sex industry businesses.
 

TENSIONS AND DISAGREEMENTS

  1. Should the City of Portland spend public funds on recruiting businesses to the area?

    Some community members believe that the City should take an active role in recruiting different types of businesses to the Portland area. They believe this is necessary in order to create a more diversified local economy, to provide additional job opportunities to local residents and to reduce Portland’s reliance on products made elsewhere. While some of these people have a strong preference for which types of businesses Portland should recruit (for example, only those that pay living wages, or those that are part of the sustainable industries cluster), all favor an active, engaged approach on the part of the City.

    However, another large group of people feels that the City should not spend public funds on business recruitment. These individuals strongly believe that Portland should focus its public funds on making the City a livable place (good schools, clean environment, etc.) and on supporting home-grown businesses and industries. They contend that if Portland creates a successful environment for local industry, other businesses will want to relocate here and will not need to be enticed with public funds.

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