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Teamwork will build region's economy

My View • A 'circle of prosperity' requires better cooperation among states

The key to economic success is retaining, growing and attracting businesses to create good paying jobs. Especially in today's tough economic times, there is fierce competition across the nation and the globe to attract new businesses, so we need to work together on a regional approach to economic development.

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, and beyond, there are many local economic development organizations and public/private alliances that have been instrumental in supporting the effort to locate and expand businesses in our area, building Oregon's reputation as a leader and innovator in design, high tech, manufacturing and the green economy.

For example, Boeing has utilized Gresham's Enterprise Zone program for significant expansions, including a new 66,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art plating facility at the Gresham campus. With more than $200 million invested in their Gresham facilities, they have already created more than 225 new jobs.

It's clear that regionally we're all in this together: Gresham is more successful if Wilsonville, Beaverton, and Hillsboro are thriving, too. And if these cities are magnets for economic growth and prosperity then Portland and Vancouver, Wash., have a much stronger case to make as they strive to attract investment and maintain their role as flagship cities.

We're starting to see this regional approach gain momentum. Earlier this year, two of the region's most prominent economic development groups - Greenlight Greater Portland and Portland-Vancouver Regional Partners Council for Economic Development - joined forces to become Greater Portland Inc. The merged organization leverages business and government economic development efforts to build a world-class retention, expansion and targeted recruitment program that positions the Portland-Vancouver region as a global center for high-quality economic growth.

Greater Portland Inc. reflects the reality that our regional economy depends on teamwork that crosses public and private sector lines as well as city boundaries and industry categories, and dovetails seamlessly with economic development efforts at the state level as well. This drives a circle of prosperity beginning and ending with jobs - high-wage jobs that increase per capita income, reduce poverty rates, and generate tax revenue to fund the public services and infrastructure that help support a high quality of life.

Just for perspective on the difference this can make, according to a 2010 study by ECONorthwest, if per capita personal income in the Portland area equaled that of the Seattle area, there would be an additional $23.4 billion of income generated in the region annually. That would generate approximately $1.3 billion in state revenue for schools, human services and other critical state and local programs each year.

As a team, we can lay the foundation for economic growth by refocusing our efforts around business development, marketing, regional strategy and regional coordination. Let's celebrate our successes as we develop an economic development strategy with a strong message we can all deliver to our co-workers, friends and neighbors: The success of communities depends on creating jobs, increasing personal income and working together as a region to compete in the global marketplace and sustain Oregon as a great place to live and work.

Jim Piro is president and chief executive officer of Portland General Electric and board member of Greater Portland Inc.