OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Jarvez Hall has been executive director of the East Metro Economic Alliance for the past six months. Hes shown here speaking at a recent meeting of the group at Fairview City Hall. When Jarvez Hall was just a kid himself, he mentored at-risk children in a Portland dropout prevention program, an early indicator of his leadership and motivational skills.

Honing these skills as a high school and college football standout and a role on a lifestyle-based reality TV show paved the way to his current role heading up the the East Metro Economic Alliance.

“To have done what he's done and come from where he's come from is remarkable,” said Faye Palmerton, executive director of TLC-TNT, the youth program where Hall mentored. “He is a shining example of an inner-city kid that could have gone the other way.”

Hall, 34, has served as executive director of EMEA for about six months.

“I've been very impressed,” said Debra Derr president of Mt. Hood Community College and EMEA member. “He has hit the road running.”

Hall did not have it easy early in his life. When he was in middle and high school, Hall, an only child, spent a lot of his time taking care of his single mom, who was gravely ill with sickle cell anemia. She died when he was only 17.

Relatives and friends surrounded and championed Hall. They bought things for his dorm room at Oregon State University and paid some of his bills. In 2005, he graduated from OSU with a degree in business.

“A whole village supported this child,” Palmerton said.

He was a walk-on on the Oregon State University football team and was a member of the 2001 Pac-10 co-championship team that defeated Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

Hall went on to get a master of business administration degree from Willamette University in 2007, focusing on business, government and not-for-profit management.

Poetic approach

At a recent economic alliance meeting, the affable Hall spoke easily to the group of local heavy hitters, joking as he made announcements and introduced the day's speaker. The nonprofit economic advocacy group brings together business and government leaders from East Portland, Fairview, Gresham, Troutdale and Wood Village. EMEA focuses on transportation, land use, education and workforce development, business environment and livability.

“I want to help be the voice for the economic development for this region,” he said. "This area is kind of the best kept secret around … I want to be one to help tell the secret. It is a great place to live, work, play and stay.”

Hall cut his organizational teeth managing national workforce initiatives and outreach for the Pacific Northwest at the Portland office of the Small Business Majority, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization.

Before that he worked in various positions at Oregon State University, Chemeketa, Clackamas and Portland Community Colleges and the city of Portland in multiple capacities. He has owned and operated three small businesses in Portland and Corvallis. He maintains his own consulting firm, assisting nonprofit organizations with strategic planning, director training, marketing and other functions.

Hall has always had the entrepreneurial bug. When he was in middle school “and a young man wanted to talk with a girl, but was having trouble, I'd would write a poem for him to use," Hall said, laughing at the memory of charging for his writing skills.

Hall has been married to his wife, Adriana, for more than five years and dotes on his 3-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son.

Leadership from limitations

Hall comes to to the East Metro Economic Alliance with the shine of celebrity. Eight years ago he was the star of the season finale of season two of "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" (now called "Extreme Weight Loss") on ABC television. He weighed 548 pounds at his first weigh-in with the show and lost 281 pounds.

“Unfortunately, I found most of it,” he quipped.

Weight has always been an issue with Hall. He was a star on the Gresham High School football team, weighing in at 300 pounds his freshman year. He said he's working on getting back on track with a healthy diet and exercise.

Being on the show taught him that “you have to have a sense of urgency to get anything done.” But it also taught him patience. “You can't lose 200 pounds in one day.”

It also fostered what he calls his “lumberjack" mentality.

"You just keep swinging at that tree," he said.

Hall injured his knee playing his last football game at Gresham High School and credits that injury with burnishing his leadership skills.

“It changed what football would be able to do for me. The knee never healed well enough for me to go out and really compete," he noted. "That is when a lot of my leadership opportunities came out and people believed in me for my leadership skills.”

Palmerton has marveled at Jarvez' evolution through the years.

“I have watched Jarvez grow as a dad, a husband, a man and a community leader,” Palmerton said, praising Hall for giving back to the community by refereeing sports, supporting friends experiencing difficulties and helping out at her nonprofit organization. “He is comfortable no matter what group he is in. He can talk with business leaders who have big homes on the lake in Lake Oswego and is equally comfortable with those on public assistance.”

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