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The City of Portland, Oregon

Ted Wheeler

Mayor, City of Portland

main phone: 503-823-4120

1221 SW 4th Ave, Room 340, Portland, OR 97204

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Council of Economic Advisors

Council of Economic Advisors (CEA)

What is the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA)?

The CEA advises the Mayor’s Office, Worksystems, Inc. and Prosper Portland on collective economic and workforce development priorities. The Council is composed of leaders from business, non-profits, chambers, government, foundations, colleges, universities, and unions. A full list of current members can be found here. The CEA meets at least three times a year in addition to subcommittee meetings.

When and why was the CEA formed?

Mayor Ted Wheeler formed the CEA in 2017 shortly after his election. It is one of the 60+ advisory bodies listed in the City of Portland’s City Advisory Bodies. The Council of Economic Advisors was created as an action-oriented group to advise the Mayor on how to fulfill his vision for economic prosperity for the city (sometimes referred to as the 25-25 Jobs Strategy). The Mayor added the CEA to provide direct feedback on a quarterly basis to the Mayor’s Office, Prosper Portland (the economic development arm of the City) and Worksystems, Inc. (the local Workforce Investment Board).

While these three entities have worked together and co-invested in workforce development and economic development for decades, all parties acknowledged a need to find creative ways to tackle some of the biggest challenges that affect business and community alike. This desire to have more voices at the table and more creativity in finding solutions to the city’s most difficult problems led to the creation of the CEA.

Strategies to increase affordable housing production, house people who are houseless, improve the transportation and transit network, and address K-12 systems – while critical elements of the city’s prosperity – are the charge of other groups and advisory bodies and not the focus of the CEA.

As an advisory body, the CEA’s charge is to give advice on economic and workforce development priorities. These include workforce competitiveness programs to help people gain the skills, training and education they need to go to work or to advance in their careers, and engagement with businesses for economic development.

How did the CEA determine its three focus areas?

In 2017, Oregon job growth was 2.9%, the second fastest in the US, and from 2013-2016, Portland’s job growth was more than twice the growth rate of the United States overall. While the regional economy has grown along with the mean income for People of Color in the Portland metro area, the income gap of $15,000 between White people and People of Color remains.  

In 2017 and 2018, the CEA reviewed recommendations from Prosper Portland and Worksystems, Inc. to find new ways to create economic opportunity for all Portlanders. The CEA subsequently directed Prosper Portland to research similar approaches taken by other communities.

In its research, Prosper Portland found that around the world, governments are finding new ways to align their efforts with business and community. The United Nations recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, the country of Scotland launched the Scottish Business Pledge, and New York City launched the Best for New York City Challenge. These are only three examples of the collective lift that government, business, and community are taking to create prosperity for their residents.

In 2018 the CEA conducted multiple working sessions focused on the key question: “How can we collectively increase the momentum of a growing economy and intentionally and explicitly foster economic opportunity for all Portlanders?” At the working sessions, CEA members discussed in depth the impact and outcomes of multiple potential focus areas before agreeing on these three:

  1. Inclusive Economic Growth and Job Creation
  2. Inclusive Small Business Support
  3. Youth Workforce Pipeline Development

What are the outcomes of the CEA to date?

Based on the CEA Focus areas, Prosper Portland research, and the desire to address local gaps in income, the CEA formed the Portland Means Progress initiative, a collaborative effort among business, community, and government to create an equitable economy.

The goal of Portland Means Progress is to align business and community in new ways, to build additional workforce and small business pipeline opportunities, and to change and adapt business culture.

The CEA will continue to provide guidance and resources to develop Portland Means Progress over time. As Portland Means Progress grows, the CEA will also review and address other economic and workforce development priorities for the city.