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Business summit draws big crowd

More than 200 local business owners and community representatives came together to discuss 'Key Ingredients to Economic Development and Success' during the 12th annual Economic Summit on Thursday, Oct. 6, at Persimmon Country Club in Gresham.

The event was presented by the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center in conjunction with Boeing. It was the largest economic summit ever hosted by the chamber.

Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis briefed those in attendance on current and proposed expansions by local industries, including Boeing, ON Semiconductor, Medcure and John Deere. Boeing's 77,000-square-foot plating facility and 37,000-square-foot parts operation expansion, Bemis said, will add approximately $200 million to Boeing's 'investment in Gresham' and generate nearly 300 new jobs.

While the city focuses on maintaining and recruiting large-scale, traded sector manufacturing jobs, Bemis also praised the 41 new small businesses that have taken part in the Garage to Storefront Program. The incentive plan waives fees for qualifying businesses, allowing 'budding entrepreneurs (to) get their concepts out of their mind, garages and kitchens, into previously empty storefronts in key areas of Gresham,' Bemis said.

Acknowledging that yesterday's 'butchers, bakers and candlestick makers,' are now community leaders and business owners, Bemis also credited the Gresham City Council for supporting an aggressive and creative method to attract small business.

Keynote speaker, Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler, updated the group on the efforts currently underway within the treasury department to re-examine the state's budget process. Led by Jim Piro, president and chief executive officer for Portland General Electric and Michael Jordan, Oregon chief operating officer, Wheeler said the committee is looking for ways to eliminate the current McDonald's model applied to funding public services.

'It's not how many customers we serve, but how we serve those customers,' Wheeler said, referring to the continual cuts to education and state services.

Wheeler also spoke of the state's need to assist businesses looking to locate in Oregon. Citing the Oregon Growth Account, which provides seed money to launch and expand new companies, Wheeler said the state can no longer depend on businesses to remain in Oregon simply because they're already located here. Additionally, small businesses need to be supported in order to flourish.

'In Oregon,' Wheeler said, 'we need to control our own destiny to grow our own business.'

Other presenters were Michele Reeves, principal with Civilis Consultants, who detailed how economic development and a city's identity play a big part in creating sustainable development; Jill A. Miles, National Recruitment Office for Business Oregon, who brought attendees up to date on East County's efforts in current business recruitment; and four members of East County Champions, who told of recent business success stories in the area.

For more information on next year's summit, contact the chamber by calling 503-665-1131.