The Portland Business Alliance and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce share advocacy priorities for addressing policy and funding challenges in the two largest urban centers in the Pacific Northwest. The top priorities are:
Keep commerce moving safely along the I-5 Corridor
Increase access to affordable housing and homeless services
Promote racial equity
Expand global market access for our companies
Downtown rebuiling and urban core enhancements
Download combined Portland & Seattle federal agenda
The op-ed below was published in The Oregonian on September 1, 2021.
by Andrew Hoan and Rachel Smith
One year ago, amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, businesses in both Portland and Seattle were battling to keep our doors open, support our workers and provide hope and assistance for those in dire straits due to the pandemic.
Then President Trump issued orders to review cutting off federal funding for Portland and Seattle under the justification that we were “lawless” and “anarchist” jurisdictions.
By lumping our two cities together, the president unwittingly helped to forge a new alliance between two West Coast economic powerhouses. Our two organizations have joined forces to advocate for a united federal agenda that supports the needs of Pacific Northwest’s urban centers.
We feel it’s more important than ever to work together for our shared objectives.
National political leaders and the media tend to focus on the East Coast or California. But they miss the progress that is well underway in the Pacific Northwest.
Portland and Seattle are at the forefront of change in the global economy. Our small and large businesses represent a diverse portfolio of economic drivers, from technology and retail to aerospace and the outdoor economy. We are working to build the inclusive economy of the future.
With a new president, new Congress and new mandate to make sweeping investments in a strong recovery, federal leaders would be crazy not to look to the Pacific Northwest to invest in the future of America. To leverage this moment, our cities, working together, have identified several priorities for federal action that will have a wide-ranging impact on our region and the nation as a whole.
Seattle and Portland are the centers of a regional network of economic movement that depends on a modern and functioning transportation system. Both our regional economies have major infrastructure needs and opportunities hinging on the replacement of bridges.
Portland needs a replacement for the Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River and Seattle needs a West Seattle Bridge repair because of the dire need to fix these crumbling pieces of infrastructure. Each provides a critical economic and community link. Each requires a significant new investment by the federal government in a comprehensive national infrastructure package.
Our regional economy is also held back by affordability and housing challenges. Pacific Northwest cities often rank among the worst in the nation for proportion of unsheltered homeless to the overall homeless population. Together, we call on Congress to expand programs and funding for low-income housing and support services to help those experiencing homelessness.
We also acknowledge that emerging stronger and better from the downturn will require a more equitable and inclusive economy. Raphael Bostic, Atlanta Federal Reserve Chair, said it most clearly: “A commitment to an inclusive society also means a commitment to an inclusive economy.”
We hold to that clarion call and implore Congress to advance racial equity initiatives. The passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in response to the increase in violence against Asian Americans was an important step to begin to address xenophobia and discrimination in America. We also urge Congress to support the development of more targeted resources, access and technical assistance for minority owned businesses and entrepreneurs of color.
Both cities also need federal leadership abroad to expand trade access and at home to rebuild our neighborhoods and business districts to sustain a long-term economic recovery.
A year ago, President Trump was actively working against Portland and Seattle in the midst of our greatest challenge in recent history. Now, we stand united in calling for President Biden and Congress to prioritize the Pacific Northwest so that America can truly build back better.
Andrew Hoan is president and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance. Rachel Smith is president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.