What does Business For A Better Portland do?
We forge collaborative relationships between the business community, non-profit organizations, and government to advocate for a Portland that is equitable and prosperous for all. Our model aims to be cooperative, efficient, and grassroots.
What’s this new membership program you started?
When we founded our organization in early 2016 as the Portland Independent Chamber of Commerce, we were an all-volunteer effort. Interest in our organization was overwhelming. Business and community leaders told us that they wanted to see our organization formalized to ensure our impact and longevity. Companies also said they wanted us to organize events for business leaders to gather and learn about our policy priorities and how to constructively engage. All of that means bringing on professional staff and consultants to augment our volunteer efforts. Collecting membership dues enables us to get great people to do great work on behalf of Portland.
Why a new business organization? Doesn’t Portland already have them?
We see ourselves not as a trade association but as a community-building organization. We are built on the premise that a thriving city supports thriving businesses. Our members want to do their part towards solving community-wide problems like housing affordability and workforce diversity. Working alongside government and nonprofits, we’ve seen real results. That’s a fundamentally different way of operating when compared to traditional chambers of commerce.
When we formed, we wanted to do a couple things: harness the power of technology to quickly make an impact on community problems and to represent businesses who wanted to weigh into helping with big issues like homelessness, but couldn’t do so on their own. We support other groups who are trying to make business’ voices heard, and we’re open to collaboration. We’re not proprietary about the work we do.
How is your organization different from other business organizations?
In our first year, we heard from leaders around Portland that something different was needed to help make changes in the community. Here’s how we do things differently:
- We attract a new generation of entrepreneurs who understand the power of leveraging grassroots organizing and technology to efficiently meet our shared goals and advance the pace of change.
- Our members are building values-based businesses. They know that their profits are inseparable from the prosperity of Portland.
- Finally, many of our allies are in newer sectors like technology, design, architecture, and next generation manufacturing. They’re trying something new, and so are we. It’s a good fit.
Why are you registered as a 501(c)(6)?
A 501(c)(6) structure gives us the flexibility to weigh in on and advance policy decisions. With recent changes at the federal level and cities being called upon to step up, it is critical that our members are in a position to seize this opportunity.
I heard you only represent tech companies and startups, is that true?
We started as an all-volunteer board, and our original board members mostly came from the technology community. We’ve broadened our outreach to companies from many other sectors including food & beverage, smart urban development, and design. It was never our goal to start a tech-centric organization, so we’re happy to be welcoming members from a multitude of industries.
How are you going to make a difference?
In a nutshell: through collaboration, not conflict. We’ve seen that the best way to make a difference is to connect businesses with policy and community leaders and get them working together on shared initiatives.