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New Greater Portland leader sees 'economic potential' in region

by:  Sean Robbins

Greater Portland Inc., a newly expanded regional economic development organization, named Sean Robbins on Thursday as its new chief executive officer.

Robbins hails from Madison, Wisc., where he led Thrive, a regional group also focused on economic development.

Greater Portland Inc. formed in April, combining two economic development organizations for the private and public sectors, Greenlight Greater Portland and Regional Partners Council for Economic Development. The group's board includes top CEOs, mayors and other leaders of the Portland-area's public and private sectors.

Robbins, who starts work Aug. 15, has a background in commercial real estate development, urban planning and economic development work.

He is new to the area, but learned a lot about the local economy during the three-month national search process.

Portland is blessed with both a major manufacturing base and a vast number of highly educated and creative professionals, Robbins said. 'You don't often find that combination.'

The Portland area, he said, has 'a lot of pearls of economic potential that can be cultivated over a long period of time.'

Greater Portland Inc. does not want to be a downtown Portland group or a group focusing on 'business advocacy,' said Mark Ganz, board chairman of the group, and chief executive officer of Portland-based Regence, the largest health insurer in the Northwest.

Rather, it's about promoting economic vitality, he said, and putting the region's best foot forward in efforts to attract new companies to the area.

Past economic development efforts have been fragmented between the public sector and private sector, and sometimes competing efforts by various cities, Ganz said.

But when an outside company is considering expanding here, it's important that businesses, suburbs and the central city work together in recruitment, he said, because all can benefit from new investments here.