Portland is experiencing rapid economic expansion and in-migration of talent that we anticipate is a long-term trend. Yet at the same time, the city’s poverty rates are rising, and wide disparities across neighborhoods and between people of color and white Portlanders are increasing, not decreasing, with economic growth.
This dichotomy is the context for our five-year strategic plan, which envisions a Portland that is globally competitive, equitable and healthy. Prosper Portland is focused on harnessing and expanding our tools for job creation, place-making and economic opportunity to achieve widely shared prosperity among all residents of Portland.
That means creating healthy, complete neighborhoods, access to high quality jobs, opportunities for wealth creation, and partnerships that prioritize benefits for people of color and low-income communities.
Prosper Portland has been working to increase equitable outcomes over the last 10 years, with each successive policy direction expanding the scope and reach of our equity work. In 2007 the agency adopted the Business & Workforce Equity Policy to ensure construction and contracting investments provided equitable opportunities for contractors and workers. In 2011, our board and City Council adopted the Neighborhood Economic Development Strategy, began to ask explicitly, “who benefits?” and to apply an equity lens in developing plans, programs, and projects to promote neighborhood vitality and business success. We began to work differently with our partners, employing the community-led, community-driven model of engagement.
In 2013, the Prosper Portland board approved a new Equity Policy, which called for all projects, initiatives and investments to generate equitable outcomes and established a multicultural, anti-racist institutional framework for the agency. We began a relationship with Crossroads Antiracism Organizing & Training to focus on institutional racism and how we can work towards racial justice as an organization. Crossroads encouraged us to create an internal Equity Council to establish an action plan and lead staff through this work.
The Equity Council has established a charter, developed an action plan, updated quarterly, and has guided agency-wide trainings and the use of tools and concepts like the Racial Equity Impact Analysis.
We’ve repositioned existing programs and initiated new approaches specifically focused on meeting the needs of diverse Portlanders, among them the Inclusive Startup Fund, the Techtown Portland Diversity Pledge, more inclusive neighborhood development, and public benefit agreements for projects receiving significant investments from the agency.