"I would have more efforts at trade relations with China, India, Canada and also identify and evaluate others." - Portland mayoral candidate Robert Carron
The crippling “localism” of Portland politics is on display in the race to be Portland's next mayor. With explosive economic growth and increased wealth abroad offering the best growth opportunities for Portland businesses and local investments, Portland’s three leading candidates for mayor skip any international thinking and stress growing local small businesses. The three candidates avoid mentioning the job generating potential of more exports and of more foreign investment in local businesses. In the Oregonian article “Portland’s top mayoral candidates share job-generating visions” by Beth Slovic, all three focus on small businesses (here):
The Oregonian asked the three major candidates for mayor -- Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith -- to outline their plans to generate jobs and to choose a Portland company that illustrates their approach. All three picked small businesses that make high-end green goods for homes and offices.
The emphasis on small makes sense. "Portland is a small business economy," says Patrick Quinton, executive director of the Portland Development Commission, the city's redevelopment agency. "If you're going to grow our economy, you're working with small businesses."
So does the focus on sustainability. "You have to build on the distinctiveness of your city," says Joe Cortright, a Portland economist who advises mayors across the country and has donated to Smith's campaign.
Even so, it's unclear just how much influence over the region's economy the eventual winner -- either in the May primary or a possible November runoff -- will have.
Sandra McDonough, president of the Portland Business Alliance, says the mayor sets the tone for the city's business climate, for good or ill. She gives Mayor Sam Adams points for landing big investments such as SoloPower's new plant, for example, but dings him for not holding down business costs such as water and sewer rates.
Brady, Hales and Smith share views on spurring jobs, a key topic in the wake of the worst recession in generations. They want to foster top-notch schools to churn out educated workers, economic programs that harness Portland's do-it-yourself culture, business recruitment efforts and help for existing companies.
Of course, not one of the three mentions creating a multilingual workforce capable of selling Oregon goods abroad as part of fostering “top-notch schools to churn out educated workers.” All three, I think, are intelligent leaders, know that Portland’s best future is to become more international. All three, I think, know that Portland voters do not want to hear that, so they pander to the provincial, local-focused political culture that is Portland. It is crippling our economic future.
Two of the other minor candidates do mention increasing exports. Robert Carron suggests (here):
Steve Sung suggests:
Portland is located in the Pacific Rim. We've got to take advantage of our location and foster close ties with Asian countries. A direct flight from Portland to Seoul and Hong Kong will be created; and paper work and permits required for foreign companies will be simplified, encouraging major Asian companies to bring their business here. We want these companies to use Portland as their front line for business and manufacturing. Why is Hyundai building their factories in the eastern states? We need to find out, and provide foreign companies with enough incentives to build their factories here. We need a strong bond to invite them and I am the one who has it.
Without breaking out of the crippling "localism" of Portland's political culture, Portland will continue to see expanding foreign language immersion programs and creating high school study abroad programs as frivilous, when, in fact, such programs are essential for a vibrant economic future.