Today the Portland Development Commission (PDC) brought their Economic Development Strategy to City Council for approval. That simple sentence does not reflect how important an accomplishment this was. This is the first economic development strategy the City has had for the past 15 years. This is the first time I have seen Council really walk their talk on economic development.
Nor does it fairly represent process that got us to this point. In the initial draft of the strategy, small business didn’t warrant a mention until the very end. Software development was always an area of focus, but in a “same old story” kind of way. Because we were invited to the table (ok, we had to ask to be invited, but we did ultimately get an invitation) Portland’s small business community significantly raised our visibility from that initial draft to the version unanimously approved today. Because small business had a seat at the table, those closest to my heart, namely the open source mobile and startup communities, were given the opportunity to demonstrate our value to the local economy. Ultimately, we made the software development cluster much more inclusive.
So why did I ask for folks to join me at today’s City Council session? The Mayor and PDC are only two pieces of the puzzle. As someone pointed out to me after sitting through hours (I kid you not, this was a loooong meeting) of invited testimony, no one spoke on behalf of the software cluster (one of only 4 clusters focused on in the strategy). So our community, and more importantly, our economic contribution to Portland, remains invisible to most of the people in that room.
Even though we offered no testimony, we had the largest representation from any industry. City Council and their staff knew most of the folks in that room today (myself included) because we are the ones who show up at every one of these meetings. We are all pretty clear on what perspective each of us represents and know what is going to be said before any of us open our mouths. Actions speak louder than words. The open source, mobile and startup (seriously, we need a better moniker) representatives who came to today’s meeting sent a very clear message. We are here and we are ready to take our seat at the table.
The hard work still lies ahead of us. A strategy is no more than a stack of paper. Implementation, funding and metrics are where the rubber really hits the road. So even though we might still have to ask for a seat at the table, I feel confident that our request will be granted.