BBPDX members collaborate with community leaders and elected officials to solve Portland's most pressing issues.
Here's what we've achieved and learned together in the process.
"We need more people to join the movement and not sit on the sidelines and talk."
BBPDX Members Influence City Council To Support Portland's Bus System
What: On June 20, the Portland City Council met to vote on whether to adopt the Enhanced Transit Corridors Plan, a strategy that will help free buses from traffic congestion, creating an opportunity to grow transit ridership, improve commute times, and reduce air pollution. In addition to submitting a written testimony in support of the plan that included signatures from more than 50 BBPDX members, BBPDX's Chief Collaboration Officer Ashley Henry testified in person ahead of the vote.
Following the testimony, City Council unanimously voted to adopted the ETC - a huge win for Portland's bus system!
What we learned: Convening a self-selected group of approximately 25 BBPDX members in early February to study a number of transportation issues coming before City Council and Metro in the coming months and years before deciding our first transportation policy priority for the year was effective.
READ MORE: Read the thank you letter from Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman and PBOT Director Leah Treat
Speaking Out For Portland's Underrepresented Entrepreneurs
collaboration with: Prosper Portland, Technology Association of Oregon, Office of the Mayor, Uncorked Studios
What: BBPDX member Uncorked hosted BBPDX and TAO members in their office for a presentation in early April. Staff from Prosper Portland and the Mayor’s office updated members on the status of the City’s budget discussions pertaining to economic development strategies. The audience was surprised to learn how relatively little resource the City spends on economic development overall. After the event, we learned that the portion of the proposed budget that was to dedicated to programs that support underrepresented entrepreneurs was at risk. BBPDX wrote and submitted a letter to Mayor Wheeler and City Council. Signed by over 125 Portland businesses, we advocated that Prosper Portland's programs to support underrepresented business owners be fully funded this budget season.
What we learned: This is the most significant budget allocation for Prosper Portland in recent memory, and was advanced with unprecedented support from the business community. It is an important first step towards the kind of inclusive economic development strategy that our city and businesses deserve!
NEXT STEPS: BBPDX is in dialogue with Prosper Portland and other community stakeholders about ways that our members can support the Inclusive Business Resource Network and its entrepreneur clients.
Transportation Policy Event
What: A policy event to explore how businesses can help address our region's transportation challenges. Moderated by Oregon Humanities' Director Adam Davis, this panel discussion featured regional leaders like Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, Portland Bureau of Transportation's Director Leah Treat, former Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson, and ZGF Architects’ Nolan Lienhart.
What we learned: Our region is falling behind on transportation and infrastructure. Elected officials need business leaders to support big, bold investments in our transportation system. It was heartening to see so many business leaders who are eager to contribute to creating a more efficient and equitable transportation future for our region.
NEXT STEPS: After the event, BBPDX members were invited to join a small workgroup and identify a key transportation issue to support. This workgroup identified the Enhanced Transit Corridor Plan and wrote City Council testimony to help advance it.
READ MORE: Read our testimony to city council
What: By June, bring on 100 new members.
Met?: Yes! By the end of May, 110 members joined. In early June, the Portland Business Journal listed BBPDX as the 23rd largest Chamber of Commerce in the Portland region. By year’s end, we surpassed the 200 member mark.
What we learned: There were previously unengaged business owners representing the new economy and growth sectors eager to connect with each other and the community to ensure a prosperous Portland for all.
NEXT STEPS: There are more ways to not only expand our membership but also create community events that give these entrepreneurs an opportunity to connect with and learn from one another.
READ MORE: "Portland indie chamber rebrands, expands membership," Portland Business Journal, 2/8/17
guest author: Ryan Buchanan, eROI
Collaboration with: Emerging Leaders Initiative
What: Recruit five businesses to participate in the ELI program
What we learned: Committing to workforce diversity takes intentional effort at every level. Cultivating relationships with educational institutions and the next generation is crucial to establishing trust and effective future programs.
NEXT STEPS: We diversified the leadership of our board and later in the year, our new associate board.
READ MORE: "After 'too white, too male' decree, eRoi's Buchanan amps up call for minority interns," Portland Business Journal, 3/1/17
GUEST AUTHOR: Sarah Joannides, New Seasons Market
Collaboration with: New Seasons Market, TerraMai PDX
What: Learn more about and connect with organizations addressing the housing and homelessness crisis like Welcome Home Coalition, Oregon Housing Alliance and Human Solutions
Met?: Yes. 100+ businesses attended the education event; 20 companies added their name to a letter to lawmakers in Salem supporting the “just cause” provisions of HB2004
What we learned: Businesses are compelled by the opportunity to focus on systemic policy solutions that could prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place and wish to direct their efforts to upstream initiatives, policy and otherwise. Additional staffing capacity is critical if BBPDX is to first educate and then engage large numbers of companies on such complex initiatives.
NEXT STEPS: We’ve continued to advocate on addressing the root causes of homelessness such as through our op-ed in the Oregonian in November. We’ve also been asked to serve on several advisory committees including one convened by Metro to evaluate the possibility of a regional bond campaign for affordable housing on the November 2018 ballot.
READ MORE: "No-cause evictions imminent at North Portland apartments; tenants push back" Street Roots, January 26, 2018
Guest Author: Laura Whipple, Scout Books
Collaboration witH: Scout Books, DesignWeek Portland
What: Book launch of Scout Books’ “We The People Are Powerful,” presentations by The Bus Project about the success of the “Motor Votor Law” in Oregon and beyond; Israel Bayer, Street Roots about the role citizens can play in ending homelessness; Commissioner Chloe Eudaly reflecting on her first few months in office. Wrote postcards to elected officials to thank them for their service during these challenging times.
What we learned: There is a pressing need for the next generation of citizens and business owners to understand the civic process, and ways of making an impact.
Next steps: This need for civic engagement became so apparent to BBPDX that we began pursuing a 501(c)(3) affiliate that would allow us to secure funding to strengthen our educational work. By the end of 2017, Friends of BBPDX became a program of the Charitable Partnership Fund, a 501(c)(3).
Guest Author: Mara Zepeda, Switchboard
Collaboration with: The Vanport Mosaic, Instrument, Portland State University
What: Leverage BBPDX’s network to secure sponsorships for the annual Vanport Mosaic Festival that allows BBPDX members and their employees to attend the event to learn more about the history of our community.
What we learned: Many Portlanders are still unfamiliar with the story of Vanport, which plays a critical role in the affordable housing and equity challenges the city now faces. Visionary and effective policy that governs new directions for our City must be steeped in an understanding of our history. BBPDX needs to provide more educational opportunities for its members so they have chances throughout the year to understand the historical context of many of our city’s challenges.
Next steps: We continue to connect organizations and potential funders in our network to the Vanport Mosaic Festival which will commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Vanport Flood and the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act this May. It’s vital for our City’s civic and business leaders to have a deeper understanding of not only the impact of the flood but also the ongoing displacement experienced by communities of color. We are also seeking affiliations with other community-based organizations that will provide our members an opportunity to learn more about our city’s racist history through workshops and reading groups.
READ MORE: "The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in America" The Atlantic, July 22, 2016
status: Not achieved
What: By May, BBPDX had over 100 members and was asked to weigh in on the tax reform debates well-underway in the 2017 legislative session. Although this was not an issue we’d planned to engage on in our first year, we were compelled by stories from our member companies who were losing talented team members to other states where they could find better-funded public schools and social services for their families. We appreciated that our elected officials and other government employees like the state economist made time to answer our members’ questions (even on holiday weekends!) and address their concerns.
What we learned: While our efforts did not help pass the revenue reform package in 2017, we were able to deliver a letter of support with 30 member company signers. We also learned about the challenges current methods of engagement provided by our legislature poses to our membership. While we were fortunate that one member was able to drive to Salem and testify, that is not realistic for most owners of small to medium sized companies, and yet it is those companies that are such a growing force in the Oregon economy.
Next steps: We learned that to be impactful, we must take a multi-year view. We’ve stayed in touch with some legislative leaders and hosted a coffee in early 2018 in Portland at our member Fully’s showroom so our members could continue learning from them and sharing their concerns. We are also researching best practices from other states about remote testimony. If our legislators only hear from the businesses who can afford to have paid lobbyists in Salem, what kind of State are we creating?
READ MORE: Several of our members authored op-eds in the Portland Business Journal and Oregonian, and we learned the importance of participating in the civic dialogue through the media. One of our members, the CEO of Cloudability, testified to the Joint Committee on Tax Reform at the State Capitol. His leadership and that of so many of our members received considerable media attention including this feature article in the Portland Business Tribune.
Guest Author: Jim Brumberg, Revolution Hall/Mississippi Studios; Kristen Connor, Heritage Bank
Collaboration with: Rep. Tina Kotek, Rep. Karin Power, Commissioner Dan Saltzman, Street Roots’ Israel Bayer, Mat Ellis, Cloudability
What: Summer Membership Drive and Social
What we learned: While the myth of entrepreneurship often projects the “lone wolf,” we are indeed stronger together. We can establish meaningful relationships with elected officials and other community leaders that communicate a spectrum of opinions and work towards collaborative, solutions-oriented approaches to the challenges we face. Engagement at a local level has never been more important.
Next steps: The feeling of connectedness and the opportunity to meet colleagues with shared values turned buoyed the spirits of our members and team. We’ve built in more networking time to our 2018 calendar (coming soon) including quarterly casual coffees and happy hours at our inner NE Portland office.
READ MORE: "Local chambers of commerce cite networking as a critical business need," Portland Business Journal, 6/2/17, "An unsteady state: business associations divide, merge and multiply," Business Oregon, 6/13/17
Guest Author: Stephen Green, PItchBlack
Collaboration with: PitchBlack, Instrument
What: Sell out the pitch festival and raise $10K for the winner’s pot
Met?: Yes. The BBPDX network helped raise over $20K total for the pitch winners and an additional $10K in travel scholarships to attend Black & Brown Founders in Philadelphia.
What we learned: With loans to black-owned businesses down 90 per cent in Portland, It is critical to invest in grassroots economic development initiatives like PitchBlack. However, we recognize that these efforts only scratch the surface of the problem, and more significant investments must be made to support entrepreneurs of color.
Next steps: We convened a group of BBPDX members to hear from the Pitch Black winners about how to support entrepreneurs of color. Some mentoring relationships have been established. All Pitch Black pitchers were provided with a free one-year membership to BBPDX and one of the winners has since joined our new Associate Board.
READ MORE: "Business For a Better Portland is passing the digital hat to raise cash prizes for winning business pitches by people of color," Portland Tribune, 8/29/17. "Black Atcha," Portland Tribune, 9/8/17. "How Portland rallied to send five black startup founders to Philly," Portland Business Journal, 10/10/17. "Portland entrepreneurs of color seek Inspiration in Philly," 10/25/17
Guest Author: Mat Ellis, Cloudability
Collaboration with: Street Roots, Cloudability, Zapproved, BrandLive, WE Communications, Radar, Brett Shulz Architects/The Beauty Shop, Work + Co, PopArt/52 LTD
What: Raise funds to purchase gifts and supplies for kits for Street Roots vendors and others experiencing homelessness; volunteer to host kit assembly parties during the holidays
Met?:Yes. Raised $15 K in donations for supplies, secured donated supplies including 175 haircuts from Bishops Barbershop (!!). Nine companies hosted parties, hundreds of employees participated and 400 kits were prepared and distributed.
What we learned: By asking the community what it needs needs, rather than assuming we knew best, we modified our project plans to result in better outcomes. In partnering with Street Roots we learned from their vendors that they wished for simple yet unexpected gifts: haircuts, movie tickets, coffee shop gift cards. Street Roots leadership and entrepreneurs engaged in discussion about homelessness with employees who attended. While the kits were appreciated, the real work is to engage in policy solutions and upstream initiatives that prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. We also learned we need more staff and volunteers to help with resources that require this level of logistical planning. It was an enormous undertaking.
Next steps: Educating and engaging our members in ways they can be involved in addressing the homelessness crisis is our top priority for 2018. Our focus will remain on addressing the root causes of homelessness.
READ MORE: "Business group seeks a prosperous Portland for everyone," Crain's, 7/10/17
Guest Author: William Henderson, Ride Report
Collaboration with: Oregon Environmental Council (OEC)
What: Recruit sponsors and guests for OEC’s Business & Environment Forum with Tony Pickett from the Urban Land Conservancy. Tony came from Denver to tell a Portland audience about the ways his organization has partnered with business and civic leaders to tackle the challenge of potential displacement from transit corridors.
What we learned: As has been the case since our organization’s inception, we’ve found that by collaborating with community organizations, we can connect our members and resources to great work that’s already happening. We also discovered the challenge that our members -- who are busy running their businesses during the day -- have when asked to attend education and networking events during the day.
Next steps: Our staff was fortunate to hear Tony speak while visiting Denver and learned about the critical role that the Denver region’s philanthropic community has played in addressing the affordable housing challenge there. We partnered with our colleagues at Meyer Memorial Trust and Grantmakers of Oregon and SW Washington to convene a small group discussion the morning after the OEC event so that Portland-area philanthropists could hear about innovative partnerships in Denver that may provide models for the Portland area. We’re also serving on Metro’s Southwest Corridor Equitable Development Strategy Advisory Committee to help regional leaders plan ahead for the impacts that a new light rail line will have in the SW Corridor. This has provided us with opportunities to connect our colleagues from the philanthropic community with those in government -- all with an eye to finding creative ways to mitigate displacement.
READ MORE: "Portland's homeless crisis needs collaborative approach to address root causes" Oregonian, November 26, 2017
Collaboration with: Portland Development Commission, Sons of Haiti, Boise Neighborhood Association
What: Raise $6,095 to cover the cost of bringing the Sons of Haiti Food Cart Pod up to code
Met?: Yes. $10,275 raised.
What we learned: There is untapped potential for the existing business community to support the economic prosperity of all businesses by leveraging crowdfunding campaigns and easy ways to lend a hand.
Collaboration with: Welcome Home Coalition, Street Roots, JOIN, Panic
What: Bring together 50 attendees, many from the tech sector, to learn about Portland’s housing crisis
Met?: Yes. 55 attendees and $3,000 raised for Yes for Affordable Homes
What we learned: Employees in new sectors are eager for education around local policy issues. Hosting these events at industry locations sends a strong signal to employees that business leaders prioritize participation.
status: not achieved
Collaboration with: Hack Oregon
What: Include the open data amendment in the city’s comprehensive plan
Met?: No. We lost the inclusion of the amendment 2 -3.
What we learned: Advocates for Open Data need to focus on how access to data has real-world effects on equity.
Collaboration with: APANO
What: Include ethnic studies classes in the Portland Public School Curriculum
Met?: Yes. We collected signatures and support from 100+ PICOC supporters endorsing the initiative and the School Board passed the changes unanimously
What we learned: It is critical for the business community to understand the priorities of youth leaders, how they are already organizing, and what we can do to help them succeed.
status: NOT achieved
Collaboration with: Street Roots
What: An additional $3500 of in-kind donations for Street Roots’ annual fundraiser
What we learned: We underestimated the difficulty of organizing a fundraiser and keeping track of donations in a shared, anonymous Google Spreadsheet. In the future, we can present supporters with a more straightforward ask.
Collaboration with: Independent Publishing Resource Center
What: Raise $20,000 to cover the IPRC’s relocation after due to a 3x increase in rent
Met?: Yes. $21,822 raised.
What we learned: While our Call-to-Action raised awareness around the issue there is room for improvement when it comes to concretely measuring the financial impact of our supporters. Also, we have to work more closely with the arts and culture organizations and clearly articulate how this vital groups contribute to our businesses’ success, and how we can contribute to theirs.
Collaboration with: PitchBlack
What: Register 50 people for PitchBlack and raise funds to award to the winners
Met?: Yes. 50+ people registered, $7K (of total $12K) contributed from our supporters
What we learned: Creating easy ways for the business community to contribute in time, talent, and treasure to the next generation of Portland’s entrepreneurs builds lasting relationships.
Collaboration with: Oregon Walks
What: Pass Vision Zero to ensure safe, walkable, and bikable streets
Met?: Yes. Endorsement from 52 local businesses collected; PICOC testified before Council; Vision Zero approved by Council
What we learned: There are easy and efficient ways to collect signatures and endorsements from local businesses by leveraging social media.
Collaboration with: XOXO festival, JOIN
What: Raise $5K to help one homeless family off the streets
Met?: Yes. $50,722 raised from 436 XOXO festival attendees and supporters
What we learned: In March, we set an unstated fundraising goal to help one family off the street. While we didn’t meet our goal at that event, Ashley, Andy, and JOIN collaborated to meet the goal later in the year thanks to the help of XOXO festival attendees.
status: not achieved
Collaboration with: Welcome Home Coalition
What: Attract 15 volunteers to phone bank in support of the Yes for Affordable Homes bond measure
Met?: No. Around ~5 volunteers attended. However the bond measure passed successfully and some of our supporters were financial contributors to the campaign. We congratulate the Welcome Home team on a successful campaign.
What we learned: Much work remains around mobilizing our supporters to show up for traditional grassroots organizing events. We remain committed to exploring how to make this “old fashioned organizing” easy, appealing, and fun to younger, busy Portlanders.
What: Collect 50 signatures from business leaders to eliminate parking minimums
Met?: Yes. 52 signatures collected. PICOC submitted in-person and written testimony to Council. Measure passed 3 -2.
What we learned: Communicating that measures like this are important to the business community is critical. These conversations should take place even earlier, and our organization can help to facilitate these connections.
After formally launching as a membership organization in February 2017 with just 15 members, the organization grew to over 200 members by year end.
In early June 2017, the Portland Business Journal recognized BBPDX as one of the Top 25 Chambers of Commerce in the Metro area.
Over 200 companies— many of which were previously unengaged civically— signed letters supporting tenant protections and revenue reform; attended events to learn how the business community can address the housing crisis; provided financial support to the winners of Pitch Black; and took time to listen to community leaders about how business can support good work that's already underway in our City.
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