Mayor Adams delivered his annual State of the City speech to the Portland City Club on Friday (2/18/11). He called for increasing our international exports, but he did not call for expanding foreign language or study abroad programs in our public K-12 schools to support that international export effort. Too bad. Given economic growth in Asia, we should be expanding our Mandarin and Japanese immersion programs. We are not. As I reported in June, 2010 (here):
In the Portland Public School lottery for kindergarten slots next year, both the Mandarin program at Woodstock Elementary and the Japanese program at Richmond Elementary each had enough applicants for another entire class next year. This was at least the fifth year in a row that each of those programs has had such excess demand.
There is a disconnection between our city’s future as Adams envisions it and what’s happening in our schools. As Brad Schmidt’s Oregonian article “Midpoint of his term, Portland Mayor Sam Adams stresses economic development at annual State of the City speech” reports (here):
Adams also repeatedly called Portland a "small but scrappy global city" that needs to grow international exports.
The full text of Adam’s speech includes (here):
I’ve always talked about making Portland an international city, and people have wondered whether that’s realistic for a city our size. But it’s not hype – it’s reality. We’re better positioned to do more than you may think.
Among U.S. Metro regions, Portland is second in the nation when it comes to exports as a percentage of gross metro product. Second in the nation: $22 billion in total earnings, and 126,000 jobs in the region, are derived from exports.
President Barack Obama—right now, at Intel in Hillsboro--has called on the U.S. to double export growth by 2015. Since World War II, only four metro areas in America have met this goal in such a short time frame. And in the last business cycle, the Portland region was one of them.
But we must continue to grow our international markets, or we risk becoming an economic suburb to cities like San Francisco and Seattle.
That’s why, six months into my term, the City Council adopted a new strategy to better position Portland for global competition as the recession lifts. The Economic Development Strategy’s goal: Create 10,000 new jobs by 2014. For the first time in 15 years, we have a tight focus on the key areas where our city and region can out-compete others. Clean tech, software, advanced manufacturing, athletic and outdoor industries—and one more to come in just a moment.
We’ve had to plan and act simultaneously. The day we approved the new jobs strategy, we also celebrated the first order for streetcars, locally-built by Oregon Ironworks United Streetcar, creating a new advanced manufacturing industry.
And the following day, we created a home energy efficiency pilot called Clean Energy Works—a program focused on increasing your home’s comfort and creating green job opportunities. We’re about to complete our 500th home, and thanks to $20 million in federal funding we expanded Clean Energy Work’s innovative approach across the state. We’re saving energy, and we’re creating quality jobs.
And last year, I announced the launch of the Portland Seed Fund to invest in our city’s start-up firms—to make sure that we’re growing companies locally who are supported to compete on the global stage.
And today, we’re pleased to announce an additional $840,000 has been raised privately. Thanks to fund managers Jim Huston (HUST-on) and Angela Jackson—and our generous investors—that’s nearly $2 million dollars to support Portland’s emerging entrepreneurs.
Finally, we have agreed to merge Greenlight Greater Portland with the Regional Partners, to create one four-county economic marketing and coordination agency. I’d like to thank Erin Flynn and Mark Ganz for their leadership.
This is great. Our challenge is to make the most of it—get out and tell our story.
In late March, I’ll join the Portland Business Alliance in visiting companies with names like Adidas, Daimler, Wacker Siltronic, and Solarworld. As one of the world’s most sustainable countries, Germany also enjoys incredible economic success. We have a lot to learn from each other—our reputation as an innovative city can open other doors for us around the world.
Today, we are exporting more than just tangible goods—whether its the Decemberists and their #1 album, Grammy award winner Esperanza Spalding, or the second season of Portlandia (no thanks to my bad acting skills!)—we’re exporting Portland-born culture.
To keep culture flowing for profit and jobs, I ask you to support Governor John Kitzhaber’s leadership, to expand our film and video industry tax incentives. The show Leverage is in season 4, and a new NBC pilot just confirmed for filming in March (and no, I’m not in it!)—all demonstrate that there is a strong market for our cultural exports.
Whether it’s foreign direct investment, green building expertise, manufacturing or culturally-driven exports, the economic destiny of the Portland we know and love is intertwined with the global economy. We’re well positioned to succeed.
We would be much better positioned if we made a few simple, no-to-low cost changes in our education system – expand those Mandarin and Japanese immersion programs and create a high school study abroad program.