Posted: November 01, 2010
State of the state: business development
Leadership Exchange delegates share perspectives on Portland
Editor's note: In mid-September, 160 community leaders from Denver traveled to Portland, Ore., for the 2010 Leadership Exchange trip, sponsored by the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation.
The goal was for Denver leaders to bring home new ideas and make connections that can improve the metro Denver region and the state of Colorado. We asked several of the 2010 delegates to share their perspectives on the trip with ColoradoBiz, one of the trip's sponsors. We've culled a sampling of the six articles, which appear in their entirety at www.cobizmag.com .
The natural environment
Portland - often described as the "greenest" city in the country by analysts and publications worldwide - places much of its emphasis on sustainability.
Energy-efficient buildings, recycling or re-using, composting and a dominant bicycle culture merge with light rail and hybrid cars to reduce the area's carbon footprint by not consuming energy.
However, Portland's leading economic development official, Erin Flynn of the Portland Development Commission, said Portland, unlike Denver, is "not so good at economic development." Flynn noted the leadership role of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. in rallying more than 50 diverse entities throughout the metro region into a cohesive economic engine.
The people of Colorado and Oregon share a common passion for ensuring their states' natural environments are preserved for future generations and expect their utilities to embrace this goal as well.
The renewable energy standard for Oregon is 15 percent renewable by 2015 and 25 percent by 2025. This year, the Colorado Legislature enacted a requirement for 30 percent renewable energy by 2025, a target Xcel Energy is well on its way to meeting.
- David Eves, president and CEO, Xcel Energy
- Stephen Miller, president and CEO, CleanLaunch
Beyond the weather
When comparing how Portland stacks up against Denver, it's tempting to revert to the obvious: The former has nearly 300 days of rain each year; the latter, about the same number of days of sunshine.
Before I traveled to Portland as part of the Denver Metro Chamber's Leadership Exchange trip, my own perception of rain and gloom had clouded my vision of the Portland community. But the trip offered a fresh lens through which to view Portland and how it compares to my native home of Denver.
Portland is doing many things right. As we heard from urban development experts on the trip, it's a community that excels at "place making." We saw this in action in the revitalization of downtown areas like the Pearl District, which, in the past 20 years, has been transformed from warehouses, industrial zones and railroad yards to funky galleries, boutiques and upscale restaurants.
However, Portland is not so good at economic development. Portland leaders admit that efforts in this area are disjointed and often duplicative.
- Leanna Clark, senior vice president of corporate communications, IMA Financial Group; and executive director, IMA Foundation
Street cars pump up downtown
During the trip, I arranged a meeting with some gentlemen who are senior managers of the Portland transit agency.
I wanted to know what the agency is doing to mitigate what every transit agency is experiencing - dwindling revenue, payroll/sales tax shortfalls and higher expenses including diesel fuel costs.
Yes, the Portland transit system has had to increase fares, reduce service and defer capital projects. But examples of what it has done well include the build-out of its renaissance streetcar system.
The Pearl Street District has seen $3 billion in investment flow into the area. It has everything necessary to sustain a community: restaurants, affordable housing, laundromats, churches and community centers.
None of these developments would have been realized without the creative partnerships between multiple city agencies and innovative developers created by this 21st century streetcar neighborhood, planners said. The streetcars, with their frequent stops, have integrated nicely into the urban fabric of the district.
- Phillip Washington, general manager and CEO, Regional Transportation District (RTD)
Portland's community has embraced a "20-Minute Living" philosophy and lifestyle that works to create an environment where you can find all of the things you need to live, work and play within 20 minutes of your home base, without using your car.
By using this goal as its driving focus, Portland has realized a host of benefits:
• Increased community involvement with an 80 percent turnout of registered voters at elections, using exclusively mail-in ballots.
• Regional density and transit plans are publicly discussed in neighborhood community centers as part of a large coordinated effort.
• There is a great sense of individual responsibility for sustainability and environmental ethics, to both take it personally and to actively educate children to think differently.
• There is an initial and ongoing focus on land-use planning and zoning development requirements of the community, with a diversity of transportation needs built into the equation - including pedestrian, bike, streetcar, bus, light rail and cars - rather than starting with transportation and then building the new development around it.
- Suzanne Calhoun, managing principal, Sustainable Development Strategies
Sustainability - and high taxes
The best thing about the trip was the opportunity to engage in public policy discussions - both formal and informal - that occurred as a result of the program prepared by Maureen McDonald (executive director of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation) and her staff.
We toured the Nike World Headquarters and learned from other speakers how the Portland metroplex was working to attract outdoor and active apparel manufacturers to the region. We learned about how Portland has grown and what can be achieved by regional cooperation and focusing on sustainability. We also met with members of the business community.
They told us taxes were too high - income taxes are among the highest in the country - the biking program is too expensive and Portland does not have a good track record when it comes to attracting and retaining business. Business leaders told us they do not have a political voice because the political climate was not balanced.
- Eric Duran, vice president, D.A. Davidson and Co.
Spotlight on health care
The Leadership Exchange trips offer a rare environment of collaboration with leaders from other communities that in many respects are similar to Denver.
The three most recent trips were to Vancouver, B.C.; Minneapolis; and Portland, Ore. - three cities that face different challenges and have unique health-care environments.
Vancouver is part of the Canadian health-care system. This form of managed care is unique and unlike any found in the United States.
Last year, delegates explored health care in Minneapolis. Minnesota is the home of the Mayo Clinic and is the birthplace of managed care.
Portland is a very active community that prides itself on healthy eating and physical exercise. It is the home of a large state-supported medical complex as well as a large private medical community. Oregon is the home of physician-assisted suicide.
The state attempted to limit covered services to those who have a documented benefit, better known as health-care rationing. The impact of these initiatives was discussed and their future in health care was explored.
- Reginald Washington, M.D., chief medical officer, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center