By Raksha Vasudevan
|Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle welcomes roundtable participants and provides opening remarks.|
On Thursday, February 14th, over 70 key stakeholders gathered in Beaverton, Oregon for a “Revitalization Roundtable.” The city was the first stop in a planned 100-city tour to encourage federal collaboration with cities across the country. Hosted by Mayor Denny Doyle and the City of Beaverton, participants included representatives from federal, regional, and state environmental and labor agencies; community development and business development stakeholders from the city;property and business owners; and city economic development and sustainability staff.
The intent of the day-long, collaborative roundtable was to begin discussions on how the City of Beaverton can work in partnership with regional entities, the state, key federal agencies, the private sector and other stakeholders to support local businesses, attract new jobs, create entrepreneurial opportunities, boost advanced manufacturing and build a sustainable community.
Featured speakers included Oregon’s First Lady, Cylvia Hayes; Jay Williams, White House Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Affairs; and Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Hayes spoke to the city’s and the region’s potential to be leaders in “economic re-invention,” stating, “We are pioneers of progressive policies that can create jobs while protecting the environment.” Williams recalled President Obama’s State of the Union address from earlier this month to emphasize the timeliness of a roundtable focused on manufacturing and job creation: “This is and does seem as a model for what will be happening in communities across the country.” Mathy Stanislaus discussed how federal agencies are ramping up efforts to better align their resources in order to effectively support communities and focus on brownfield redevelopment as a nexus of job creation, sustainable manufacturing and clean energy.
The morning panel, entitled “Transformation from Idled Industry to Innovative Manufacturing and Technologies,” focused on current methods and challenges to expand manufacturing in Beaverton, an inner-ring suburb of Portland, as well as in the Greater Portland region. This is one of four regions in the U.S. that has doubled exports in the past decade, and local panelists discussed existing and potential efforts that could position the Greater Portland area as a leader in both manufacturing and sustainability as well as a leader in innovation — emphasizing the point that manufacturing and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. David Vernier, Founder and CEO of Vernier Software & Technology, the first company to take advantage of Beaverton’s new Enterprise Zone, described his company’s focus on green business practices and Beaverton’s efforts to attract green businesses, the quality of Beaverton’s public schools, and the clustering of hi-tech companies in the city as critical elements in attracting and retaining young talent. Other panelists described existing innovative programs, such as Business Oregon and the Washington-Oregon Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge that are leveraging public and private funds to grow robust, flexible manufacturing-related small businesses.
The second panel, “Brownfields as the Launching Pad for Sustainable Community Revitalization,” featured panelists from the U.S. EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality who described current technical assistance programs and funding available to support communities interested in converting brownfields into productive use. With over 20 parcels on the Oregon DEQ’s contamination list, and with the added challenges of being a land-locked city, Beaverton has identified the need to target revitalization efforts towards such properties. Therefore, panelists provided information on federal grants available for technical assistance, implementation and relevant job training. Several participants also spoke to the need for trust building, emphasizing public-public as well as public-private partnerships as critical to the long-term success of revitalizing brownfields.
The final panel, “Resources for Revitalization,” consisted of city staff from ongoing city projects as well as regional and federal agency representatives. The projects included the Beaverton Community Health Collaborative, which combines health and social services in the middle of a highly underserved area; the Beaverton Creekside District, nearly 50 acres downtown that is the focus of revitalization through green infrastructure and transit-oriented development; and the Beaverton Enterprise Zone, where the city hopes to attract new and existing businesses. City representatives presented particular challenges within each of the projects, including funding, community support, land ownership and land assembly challenges, to which agency representatives provided alternatives and ideas for the city to explore further.
Mayor Doyle, 2012 chairman of the First-Tier Suburbs Council at the National League of Cities, describes Beaverton’s environmental, economic and social challenges (and opportunities) as similar to those of many first-tier suburbs. At the roundtable he declared, “We believe we can be a model for other communities in our state, our region, and our nation.” As 2012 EPA Green Power Community of the Year, winner of a Community Transformation Grant from the Center for Disease Control and recipient of a 2013 Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Grant, Beaverton’s efforts are being increasingly recognized for its focus on multi-level partnership building, sustainability and economic innovation. As Jay Williams noted in his speech, “What we have today is a recipe for success.”