Local leaders brainstorm ways to stimulate East Multnomah County from transportation to education

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Jarvez Hall, EMEA executive director, said the Economic Prosperity Forum will help guide the region through future growth. The inaugural East Metro Economic Prosperity Forum began with a question — what would happen?

What would happen when new industries and businesses in the region lead to an explosion of new community members flocking to East Multnomah County? Would the transportation network or schools be able to handle it? Where would the new workers live?

"Are we ready for another 5,000 employees in the region?" asked Jarvez Hall, executive director of the East Metro Economic Alliance. "The answer is, 'We think so.' There are great things happening, but we want to be sure we are ready for that kind of growth."

So, the members of the East Metro Economic Alliance decided to host the forum to convene a diverse group of local business and community leaders to brainstorm strategies to ensure economic success throughout the region.

"We want to discuss how to grow this community together," Hall said. "We are trying to bring leaders together and come up with collaborative goals for the entire region."

During the six-hour forum, which took place Friday, May 4, at the Rockwood Boys and Girls Club, about 100 prominent local government officials, business owners and educators gathered to brainstorm the best way for the area to move forward. A large portion of the event was dedicated to funneling these talented people into small group sessions where they could formulate new ideas.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The main part of the Friday, May 4, forum was dedicated to small breakout groups that brainstormed strategies for East Multnomah County.Those who attended signed up for the group they wanted to join. Each of the four breakout sessions focused on a key regional aspect — Education and Workforce Development, Housing Choices, Industry and Entrepreneurship, and Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure. Representatives from each session brought their ideas back to the main group, which voted on priorities using their smartphones.

Ideas generated during the forum included moving toward more living-wage jobs, developing a transportation hub at Mt. Hood Community College, exploring innovative housing types and supporting a collaboration between existing educational resources and industries already located here.

Hall is now busy analyzing the ideas and concepts generated at the forum to create an action plan with which to move forward.

"I was very happy with the event because everyone who was a part of it said they were excited by what we came up with," he said.

The event was sponsored by Mt. Hood Community College, the Port of Portland and Home Forward. Portland State University's Institute of Metropolitan Portland Studies and NXT Consulting Group also provided support throughout the day.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-District 3, shared welcoming remarks and Jeremy Hays, a Portland-based consultant who works with business, government and nonprofit organizations, delivered the keynote address.

"You are bringing together a terrific group of people," Blumenauer said.

Organizers want the Prosperity Forum to become a yearly tradition. They look forward to reconvening next year to see what was accomplished through the discussions and how they can further implement their economic vision.

"We see this as a launch pad into the future," Hall said.

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