Portland Metro Chamber Board Chair Jessica Getman remarks given at the June 15, 2023 Annual Meeting, presenting by U.S. Bank.
Good Afternoon, everyone.
I am Jessica Getman, President of Brown & Brown Insurance. Over the last year, I have had the great pleasure to serve as the Board Chair for the Alliance.
The Alliance has worked hard and has accomplished so many great things across all three affiliates.
This work is made possible by each one of you here today.
Thank you to our Alliance and Partners In Diversity members, and the ratepayers of Downtown Portland Clean & Safe.
I would like to ask Board members from all Alliance affiliates to stand and be recognized.
Thank you so much for your support of this organization, dedication to our city and your personal guidance during my term as Chair.
I officially have 15 days and 12 hours left as Chair. But who is counting!
Alando Simpson, President of COR, will be taking the reins in just a few weeks.
Today, I would like to share with you some highlights of the remarkable work that we have accomplished together and then make a special announcement about the future.
The Portland Business Alliance is the collective three organizations of Downtown Portland Clean & Safe, your chamber, and Partners In Diversity, a program of our affiliate, The Charitable Institute.
Let’s start with a year in review of Downtown Portland Clean & Safe.
After City Council, led by Commissioner Mingus Mapps and Mayor Ted Wheeler, approved the renewal of the rate payer funded, 213-block enhanced services district contract, Downtown Portland Clean & Safe has dramatically modernized, improved, and added services to the district that meet the needs of today’s challenges and opportunities for our downtown core.
This year alone the team, in partnership with Central City Concern, picked up more than
- 75,000 bags of trash
- Removed 35,000 graffiti tags, and
- Cleaned up just over 24,000 biohazards
Thanks to the newest partnership with Gardaworld, our safety coordinators are on the streets, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week responding to nearly 27,000 public safety calls.
While I recognize we have a long way to go, just imagine what downtown would look like without Downtown Portland Clean & Safe.
And there’s more…
Just last month Downtown Portland Clean & Safe launched a new street outreach program to connect the most vulnerable members of our community living on the streets with services.
The goal is to help our unhoused neighbors get off the streets and onto a pathway to a safe and dry place.
This program is in partnership with Bybee Lakes Hope Center, and even before the official launch, they had already helped people find housing.
Along with direct services, the team has been busy massively expanding The Holiday Lighting Program, thanks to our partnership with the City of Portland and Commissioner Carmen Rubio.
They’re also busy creating fun activation campaigns, like the Bloom Tour and Pride Ride, with our downtown retail partners and providing retail marketing support to recruit and retain businesses downtown.
And starting June 1, Clean & Safe has launched a one-year pilot program to provide enhanced cleaning and security services, as well as retail activations and event programming in Director Park, our city’s most splendid downtown plaza. Thank you to Commissioner Dan Ryan.
This has been challenging work, but I want to personally thank the entire Downtown Portland Clean & Safe team for all their tremendous work and continued stewardship and dedication to our downtown.
Partners in Diversity has also accomplished great things this year!
Partners In Diversity hosted 37 events and programs that educate employers as well as help build a feeling of belonging among employees of color.
They have grown participation in their signature educational program, Breakfast for Champions, that helps employers learn best practices on how to enhance D-E-I in the workplace.
Over the last year, Partners In Diversity has continued to expand opportunities for people of color to have safe spaces to connect with each other.
Its community resource groups initiative, which launched in 2021, has expanded this year, to include the Latino and the Native American C-R-GS.
And in case you didn’t know, they also launched a podcast, called Equity Conversations. This is just another resource they are offering to help make us better leaders, better employers, and a more inclusive and welcoming community.
I personally participated in their CEO Forum this year and found the chance to learn from other regional business leaders invaluable.
If you’re not already a member of Partners In Diversity, I highly encourage you to join!
And don’t miss the NW Equity Summit on September 26. This event is almost sold out.
And last but not least, the Chamber is comprised of more than 2,200 organizations from across our Metro region.
Over the past year, we’ve added an additional 124 businesses to our coalition.
- Of these new members, 35 percent are owned by Black, Indigenous or people of color.
- And 40 percent are woman-led.
Along with continuing to build our membership, your Chamber has pushed forward a strong policy agenda focused on addressing the challenges of our region and restoring Portland to a vibrant, safe and attractive place to live, work and play.
We have worked tirelessly to deliver on these priorities.
Our first priority was to hold the line new taxes and identify reforms to reduce the tax burden.
Last October, the Chamber worked with the City of Portland, Multnomah County and Metro to adopt market-based models for assessing business revenue. Effectively cutting taxes for thousands of local businesses in the region. So starting January 1, many of your businesses’ taxes are going to be lower. And even more importantly, no one’s local taxes are going to go up!
This is because the Chamber led a diverse coalition of community partners to decisively defeat a capital gains tax in Multnomah County. This is the first time since 2011 that voters in the county have voted down a new tax proposal.
Your Chamber of Commerce, with partners like the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors, many other local and state-wide business groups, nearly all of our local elected officials, and community based organizations like APANO and Hacienda CDC delivered an unprecedent defeat of a new tax!
Secondly, we worked to restore a clean, safe, and vibrant central city.
In partnership with Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Dan Ryan, we were instrumental in supporting the passage of five key resolutions to ban unsanctioned camping in our city.
We did this by deploying polling that amplified the voice of Portland voters, who overwhelmingly expressed that they wanted an end to the unsheltered crisis on our streets, the expansion of shelters and an increase in the production of affordable housing.
And we rallied you, our business community, who showed up in droves to express their support for this commonsense solution to the crisis. We know our current system isn’t working for anyone and we believe our unsheltered neighbors deserve better.
Third, we advocated to restore public safety by supporting an increase in police funding, restoration of our neighborhood prosecutors and we met with Multnomah County presiding Judge Judith Matarazzo to tell her directly about the impact repeat offenders were having on small businesses and employees across our city.
Last week we got word that Judge Matarazzo strengthened the presiding judge order that will now require people who commit the same crime over and over again to be held in jail until they see a judge. I want to thank Judge Matarazzo for hearing us and taking action.
And last month, we stood with District Attorney Schmidt Chair Vega Peterson, Mayor Wheeler, Commissioner Gonzales and other public safety leaders as they created and funded two local task forces to tackle organized retail and auto theft.
Our region has some of the highest rate of retail and auto theft relative to other major cities. And we understand how greatly these crimes impact businesses of all sizes- but especially store front businesses. We stand ready to help support the new initiative in any way to help ensure its success.
Next, we supported the City of Portland’s plan to build six temporary alternative shelter sites so that more people experiencing houselessness can move off the street and can have greater access to the help they need to live productive lives.
We were heartened when former chamber board member, Dan Field, was named as the new Executive Director for the joint office for homeless services. Congratulations Dan and thank you for your dedication to serve our region! We look forward to working with you.
Dan Field is joined by another former board member, Julia Brim-Edwards, who was sworn in this week, after winning outright in the May election as Multnomah County Commissioner for District 3! Thank you, Julia, and congratulations.
Having business leaders choose to serve in government will make a difference in outcomes for our community.
In case that wasn’t enough, our fifth priority set out to tackle our housing crisis by helping spur new housing development.
Through a multi-pronged approach, we supported:
- Incentives for office-to-residential conversion,
- Incentives to develop new affordable and workforce housing,
- Decrease timelines and steps in the permitting process,
- And streamline requirements for developers.
Next, we supported economic development strategies to grow and recruit innovative employers.
Our economic reports have shown that the city and region cannot take growth for granted.
So, it was important for the Chamber and our members to collaborate with Prosper Portland and provide feedback in the creation of the “Advance Portland” Plan.
This plan will guide the city’s economic development work for the next 5-years and was unanimously approved by the Portland City Council back in April. We look forward to working with Kimberly Branam and the entire Prosper Portland team to help implement this strategy to create a new and better Portland.
This, along with the State of Sport Taskforce bill, lovingly known as HB3250, was developed with a state-wide coalition, has been passed out of the committee unanimously thanks to the leadership of Representative Janelle Bynum. Advance Portland and the State of Sport Taskforce, when coupled with a restoration of affordability and quality of life, will be the game changers for our region that we need.
Finally, our last priority was to support funding for Oregon’s share of the I-5 bridge replacement project. This is a vital transportation artery for the west coast and is our second chance at a once-in-a-generation infrastructure project. Washington state has already allocated money to support this project and it is now time for Oregon to step up. On our Washington DC fly-in, we partnered with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber, and with the passionate advocacy of Petro President Lynn Peterson, we urged every member of Oregon and Washington’s congressional delegation to make the I-5 bridge replacement a top priority.
They listened. And they have shown their support.
All of these accomplishments are only what made it into my script and doesn’t include everything.
The entire Alliance is really getting shit done.
Year in and year out, the staff works tirelessly on your behalf to address the most pressing issues impacting our community. Because we know when your business thrives, so does our city, region, and state.
Thank you all for sharing your time with me. I encourage all of you to stay connected, share your voice, and find opportunities within your community to get involved.
Because it is going to take all of us to steer this ship back to calmer waters.
And together, we are stronger.