Portland Economic Equity Initiative

Goals of the Initiative

When the Portland Development Commission (PDC), the public agency responsible for economic development and urban redevelopment in the City of Portland, Oregon, sought to undertake a new five-year strategic plan for 2015-2020, it took the opportunity to address the challenge of how to ensure people of color, low-income residents, and Portlanders in underserved neighborhoods could achieve their full potential.

The median hourly wage for workers of color in Portland was $17 in 2012, compared to $22 for white workers. Looking at that data for the past 30 years, city officials were alarmed to discover that the income gap between workers of color and white workers has increased: the differential was $3 per hour in 1980 and 1990, but grew to $5 per hour in 2000 and remained that way in 2012.

The goal of the new strategic plan is to achieve widely shared prosperity among all residents of Portland by harnessing and expanding PDC's tools for job creation, placemaking, and economic opportunity. To achieve this goal requires a dramatic increase in the percentage of households at or above self-sufficiency (the income required to meet a household's basic needs, such as housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, taxes) without public subsidies or other private or informal assistance) by 2020.

Key stakeholders

Addressing these challenges requires a new form of governance that leverages the strengths of public, private, and not-for-profit institutions through ad hoc networks that form to design, execute, and finance new solutions that address market and system failures. The PDC plays a unique role as convener of private and community interests.

1. Partners in workforce and competitiveness include Worksystems, regional universities and community colleges, Multnomah County, Home Forward, Port of Portland, Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership, All Hands Raised, Greater Portland Inc., and Business Oregon;

2. Partners in affordability and neighborhood solutions include the Portland Housing Bureau, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Multnomah County, Home Forward and other community-based organizations;

3. Partners in neighborhood capacity building include the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI) and Main Street Network districts, Venture Portland, private and philanthropic partners;

4. Partners in innovation and infrastructure include Multnomah County, TriMet, and startup support organizations.

Funding Sources

Almost 92 percent of PDC's financial resources come from tax increment financing (TIF), a special funding tool used to promote public and private investment within urban renewal areas (URAs). The other eight percent of PDC's financial resources come from City Council general funds, federal grants, and administration of Enterprise Zones.


This Strategic Plan directs PDC's efforts and investments toward five mutually reinforcing objectives designed to achieve a dramatic increase in households with an income sufficient to meet their basic needs. To achieve this vision, the plan will:

1. Strengthen Portland's communities by striving to build and increase access to healthy, complete neighborhoods-those with essential goods and services, transportation options, connections to employment centers, and community and open spaces-throughout Portland;

2. Leverage and maintain Portland's economic competitiveness and create access to high quality employment by supporting traded sector business growth, access to new domestic and foreign markets, and connections for Portland residents to quality employment opportunities across both traded sector and local serving industries;

3. Increase equitable opportunities by growing small and promising new business ventures, commercializing research, and supporting real estate ownership and development that fosters wealth creation within communities of color and low-income neighborhoods;

4. Align efforts by forming 21st century civic networks, institutions, and partnerships to address the most pressing barriers to prosperity and establish creative, effective, silo-busting solutions;

5. Model the values of this plan and maintain PDC's ability to be an agent of positive change in the city of Portland by operating an equitable, innovative, and financially sustainable agency.

Measures of Success

The PDC Strategic Plan goal and objectives will be evaluated across a broad spectrum of indicators of success at the end of the five-year plan. Some of the indicators are:

Increase the percentage of households at or above self-sufficiency to 68% by 2020 (BASELINE: 63%16 of households)

By 2020, reduce the number of Portland households living in high-poverty neighborhoods by 50% without promoting displacement (BASELINE: 24,709 households)

Increase resident satisfaction in East Portland to 80% (BASELINE: 64% satisfaction rate)

Reduce local per capita carbon emissions to 52% below 1990 levels by 2020. (BASELINE: 35% below)

Increase percent of workforce in Multnomah County earning at least a middle wage to 48% by 2020 (BASELINE: 45%)

Close the unemployment rate gap between white workers and workers of color by 2020 (BASELINE: Unemployment rate for white people: 8.9%; Unemployment rate for people of color: 12.8%)

Create 13,000 new middle wage jobs in East Portland and Multnomah County by 2020, with significant net job growth adjacent to low-income neighborhoods by 2020 (BASELINE: 100,008 total middle wage jobs -- 21% of jobs)

Increase percentage of small businesses registered in Multnomah County founded or owned by women or people of color by 2020 (Methodology TBD)

Related resources

PDC Strategic Plan 2015-20: http://www.pdc.us/Libraries/Document_Library/PDC_Strategic_Plan_pdf.sflb.ashx
StartUp PDX Challenge: http://www.pdc.us/startuppdxchallenge.aspx
Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative and Main Street Network:  http://www.pdc.us/for-businesses/business-district-programs-support/neighborhood-prosperity.aspx

NLC Contact:

Gideon Berger, Rose Center for Public Leadership


Program Area