2024 State of the Alliance by Board Chair Alando Simpson

June 2024

2024 Portland Business Alliance Annual Impact Report

Download 2024 Impact Report (pdf)



Portland Metro Chamber Board Chair Alando Simpson remarks given at the June 18, 2024 Annual Meeting, presenting by U.S. Bank.

I am Alando Simpson, president of COR and board chair of the Portland Metro Chamber over the last year.

Looking back on the past year, I am amazed at the tremendous impact that all the affiliate organizations under the Alliance have had on our city.

Thank you to the ratepayers of Downtown Portland Clean & Safe; members of the Chamber and Partners in Diversity, and stakeholders of the Best Practices trips under the Charitable Institute. We thank you for your continued support and commitment to our city.

I would also like to acknowledge the chairs of all the Alliance affiliates.

  • Vanessa Sturgeon, chair of Downtown Portland Clean & Safe
  • Jessica Getman, chair of the Charitable Institute
  • Melinda Rogers, chair of Partners in Diversity

I would like to share with you some of the remarkable work that we have accomplished together. And this is only a fraction of what each affiliate has done.

On your tables is the Portland Business Alliance impact report. This includes more details about the collective work and a link to the update on our 3-year strategic plan. I encourage you to look that over at the link above.

Now, let’s start with some of what Downtown Portland Clean & Safe has done this year. Clean & Safe has gone above and beyond to help support the downtown business community.

A welcoming downtown is only possible if people feel safe. That is why they created the downtown hotel security district to provide more public safety coordinators on the street and support the businesses welcoming visitors to our city.

This was a true public-private partnership, with funding from stakeholders:

  • Multnomah County
  • Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office
  • City of Portland
  • TriMet
  • And downtown hotel businesses

Thank you so much for your support and partnership.

And, coming soon, Clean & Safe will expand its safety program to support the arts community at P5. Thanks to the generosity of the Visitor Development Fund and resources made available by Chair Jessica Vega Pederson through the work of Travel Portland and more.

It is so important that we show our continued support for our arts, hotel and hospitality sectors. They were some of the hardest hit during the pandemic and hotels and performing arts venues attract visitors who, in turn, patronage other businesses, restaurants, caterers, meeting vendors and more.

So much of Clean & Safe’s work relies on partnership and collaboration. Another example of that is the transformation of Director Park. This public plaza in the heart of downtown was a magnet for illegal behavior and trash. Over the last year, they have given it a deep clean and managed activation and events programming in the park.

This gem in downtown Portland now sparkles with life and is a welcoming space for residents, families and the entire community, as witnessed at the first annual Ducky Drop. This event commemorated the start of the summer event season.

And there are exciting projects coming to fruition – if you haven’t heard, the city will be breaking ground on Darcelle XV Plaza this summer! Formerly O’Bryant Square, this full block has been closed for a decade, and starting with shovels in the ground this summer, those days are in the rearview. The city is moving ahead, opening this space back for public use and honoring our city’s most iconic drag queen with an inviting open space in the heart of our city. It will include a stage, food trucks, a drag queen walk of fame and so much more!

Downtown Portland Clean & Safe will support this public space as well, once it opens in early 2025. Thank you to Commissioner Dan Ryan and the Portland Parks Bureau for your partnership on both these projects.

And finally, for the first time, Clean & Safe awarded retail grants totaling $75,000. These grants were awarded to four small businesses that signed new leases in downtown Portland. Let’s welcome Portland Gear, Tea and Tea, Akizawa Sushi, and Pleasure Burger to our downtown business community!

Thanks to Clean & Safe and our government partners, downtown Portland is growing again! Public safety in the core continues to improve – with every available category of crime falling. And I would like to acknowledge the impact of the 90-day fentanyl emergency, declared by Governor Kotek and Dan McMillan from The Standard.

This is worth celebrating!

If you look around downtown, you can feel and see a difference. Foot traffic in the Clean & Dafe district is up 10% from last year. Things are getting better but there is more work to be done and Downtown Portland Clean & Safe will be there to help.

Last fall Jenny Kim was hired as the new executive director for Partners in Diversity. I would like to welcome Jenny to the Alliance team and celebrate some of the things she and her team have accomplished.

Partners in Diversity hosted more than 1,300 people at the NW Equity Summit last fall. This event is the largest gathering focused on the best practices for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the nation. This hugely impactful event should not be missed and plan ahead because you are invited for the next one on May 20, 2025.

In case you didn’t know, Partners in Diversity is a statewide organization and has expanded programming outside of Portland to SW Washington, Central Oregon and the Willamette Valley.

They have also expanded their programming to better serve employers in creating inclusive organizational culture and create new opportunities for people of color to find community. A cornerstone of their programs that help retain professionals of color is their Professional Resource Groups. These PRGs provide an opportunity for professionals of color to grow their network outside their organizations. This year, Partners in Diversity plans to expand to include a fifth PRG, the Middle Eastern & North African group. Please spread the word.

Jenny and her team are doing amazing work to support employers in our region and, if you’re not already a member of Partners in Diversity, I highly encourage you to join!

And now, I get to talk just a little bit about what the Chamber has been working on.

The Portland Metro Chamber represents more than 2,300 organizations from across our region and beyond. Along with supporting our members, the chamber continues to focus on addressing our community’s challenges so that Portland continues to be a vibrant, safe and attractive place to live, work and play.

The Chamber has been laser-focused on the revitalization of downtown. To spur economic growth, we worked collaboratively with Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Carmen Rubio and the entire Portland City Council to deliver the most ambitious incentive package for business in the nation, which includes:

  • Incentives for office leasing in the central city
  • Expansion of the enterprise zone program to invest in our built environments
  • And coming soon, the establishment of the new Central City Tax Incentive District.

This will ensure, for decades to come, that investments in downtown Portland stay in downtown Portland. Combined with the bold leadership of Governor Kotek and Dan McMillan of The Standard, who called for a three-year moratorium on new taxes, this sends the message that Portland is open for business!

I applaud the mayor and the entire city council for thinking outside the box to drive economic growth, revitalize our Central City and support local employers.

Our research helps educate the community and guides us in critical conversations with our elected leaders to influence change. This year the chamber released not just our annual State of the Economy report… but also a report that focused on the importance of small businesses to our economy.

Using the findings from the State of Small Business report, the Chamber urged the city to implement long-sought permit consolidation. Because the current system was creating major obstacles for small businesses to grow and thrive. Thank you to Commissioner Dan Ryan for starting the process and Commissioner Carmen Rubio for finishing the effort to push for common-sense solutions to the permit process.

Along with permit reform, the Chamber championed the creation of an Office of Small Business, to help entrepreneurs navigate and access city services and resources. Thank you to our partners at Prosper Portland for standing up this new department.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of Portland’s economy, and the Chamber is committed to working together to support their growth so that our entire community can thrive.

And we know none of this matters if we can’t make our city safe.

The Chamber worked with a coalition of statewide partners to successfully fight for reform of Measure 110.

These reforms will reinstate criminal penalties for the possession of hard drugs in public and on public transit. And help create numerous deflection points for those struggling with addiction to enter treatment and avoid criminal penalties. While also building tools that our public safety partners can use for accountability.

This was a HUGE win, and the Chamber will continue to stay at the table to make our community a safer place.

We have also been busy working to secure state funding for a much-needed 24/7 sobering center, which our region has not had since December 2019. Thanks to our efforts, the state allocated $25 million toward funding the start-up costs for the first year. This sobering center will allow for first-responder drop-off and help the most vulnerable Portlanders get support and access to the drug treatment that they need.

Thank you to State Senator Kate Lieber, County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards for your support.

This is just a fraction of what the Portland Metro Chamber, Downtown Portland Clean & Safe and Partners in Diversity have accomplished over the last year. Year in and year out, the staff works tirelessly on your behalf to address the most pressing issues impacting our community and give you opportunities to connect and grow your business.

Because we know when your business thrives, so does our city, region, and state.

As my term as chair comes to an end, I would like to thank my fellow board members and the boards from all the Alliance affiliates. Thank you so much for your support, time and dedication to our city.

Will Rasmussen, Partner of Miller Nash, will be taking over from me as chair next month.

Finally, I would like to leave you with a call to action.

In this moment of change for our city, I would like to encourage all of you to roll up your sleeves and make a difference so that ALL Portlanders can share in our renewed economic prosperity, leaving our city and planet a better place for future generations.

Thank you.