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White House officials, local leaders talk partnerships at revitalization forum


City praised as ahead of the curve in collaborative redevelopment plans

Jay Williams and Mathy Stanislaus departed Washington, D.C., for Beaverton last week feeling reasonably certain they had lots of worthwhile advice and wisdom to impart regarding urban revitalization and partnerships between local and federal governments.

After listening to morning presentations from city of Beaverton and regional leaders at The Round at Beaverton Central, however, Williams, White House deputy director for intergovernmental affairs, and Stanislaus, the Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator, felt a twinge of panic.

“Mathy and I (were) furiously changing what we were going to say,” Williams said to laughter from the audience.

Beaverton, he explained, has clearly done its homework.

“We often find some communities aren’t as connected as they should be. There’s a disjointed feel,” Williams added. “The previous panelists were all on message. This community has its act together.”

The White House staffers gathered with local, state and regional leaders on the fifth floor of the South Office Building, 12725 S.W. Millikan Way, for the Beaverton Revitalization Roundtable. Organized to accommodate the federal officials on their first stop of a 100-city U.S. tour, the all-day forum — held in the future home of Beaverton City Hall — focused on sharing ideas, strategies and successful models related to partnership-based community revitalization.

City officials focused on initiatives such as the Creekside District plan, geared toward revitalization of properties from Canyon Road to the Beaverton Creek to the north, and creating a multi-million-dollar community health and wellness facility catering to underserved populations.

Speakers at the event included dignitaries such as Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes; Mayor Denny Doyle; Don Mazziotti, the city’s economic and community development director; Cindy Dolezel, Beaverton’s sustainability director; Mike Williams, business development manager for Business Oregon; David Vernier, founder and chief executive officer of Vernier Software & Technology; and Anthony Barber, director of the EPA’s Oregon Operations Office.

Among the 50 or so attendees were Metro regional government Councilor Bob Stacey, Washington County Commissioners Greg Malinowski and Dick Schouten, representatives from the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce and the five members of the Beaverton City Council.

An afternoon roundtable discussion featured representatives from the office of Housing and Urban Development, along with several state and regional officials representing transportation, environmental quality and economic development offices.

Rising from industrial ashes

In the co-keynote lunch address he shared with Stanislaus, Williams shared his experiences as the first African-American mayor of Youngstown, Ohio. He described the forces that came together to transform the beleaguered “rust belt” city from its waning steel and manufacturing-based economy in the late 1990s to one that thrives on technology-based industry such as 3-D printing.

“We were using the term ‘recovery,’” he said of the plan known as “Youngstown 2010,” “when what the city really needed was to reinvent itself.”

He stressed the importance of the city taking advantage of federal resources and agencies toward fulfilling its new vision.

“Part of it was making sure the federal government was connecting with the community, making sure the federal government was there as a resource,” he said.

Praising President Obama’s emphasis on rebuilding the middle class in last week’s State of the Union speech, Williams specified the president’s goals of reforming the tax code and lessening incentives to send manufacturing overseas.

“The goal is to make sure we set priorities for investing in this country and making sure the workforce has the ability to make that transition,” he said, noting the country “functions (best) from the middle out instead of the top down.

“The fact that what the president talked about ties in with what you’ve been doing for years bodes well for Beaverton,” he added.

Speaking on the importance of the federal brownfields revitalization program to bring contaminated former industrial sites back to commercial viability, Stanislaus said brownfields should represent future opportunities more than past failures.

“The program is really about communities revisiting their downtowns and neighborhoods,” he said, praising Beaverton’s vision to refashion fallow areas into useful community components.

Noting that redeveloping brownfields carries lower infrastructure and greenhouse gas expenditure costs than unused land, Stanislaus said Obama’s goal of reimagining industrial property is alive and well in Beaverton.

“I do believe, given your vision, you have the assets around you. The elements Beaverton has in place … are exactly what the president was talking about.”

Praising Stainislaus’ comments, Doyle placed Beaverton ahead of the pack in terms of urban revitalization.

“The president said we were going to ‘tear down the silos,’ and we’ve heard living proof that it’s happening,” he said. “We realize if (communities) don’t get our act together, we will get swallowed by the world economy. But know that we won’t let that happen” with people like Williams and Stanislaus providing leadership on the federal end.