Portland Enterprise Zone Program
In 2017, the City of Portland and Prosper Portland took a bold step, turning a traditional economic development program incentive into an innovative, nation-leading model which aims to identify shared values between business, community and the public sector.
Contact Andy Reed, E-Zone Manager, email or 503-823-7053
The Oregon E-Zone Program is a state economic development program that allows property tax exemptions for up to five years in exchange for certain public benefits. Participating firms are required to meet the program requirements set by state statute and the local sponsor.
The Portland Enterprise Zone exists primarily to incentivize firms to invest major capital outlays and to create or retain quality jobs by offering property tax exemptions designed to encourage existing and new businesses. The E-Zone geography has evolved over time, most recently with the 2012 addition of East Portland, reflecting the city’s commitment to ensure more broadly shared community benefit by focusing predominantly on the area east of Cesar Chavez Boulevard.
With the 2017 changes, the program is positioned to change the apprenticeship, internship and mentoring landscape for Portland workers by connecting nonprofits, schools and universities with companies that want to collaborate on workforce pipeline development.
The City, as the E-Zone Sponsor, and Prosper Portland, as E-Zone Manager, each have a unique and critical role in creating an equitable economy for all Portlanders. State of Oregon statute empowers localities to impose certain requirements to target the incentive to firms, and in 2017 Portland designated that requirement to be a “public benefit agreement,” defined as a legally binding agreement between a governmental organization and a business with the goal of creating shared value and partnership. Such agreements create an interdependent bridge between the competitiveness of a company and the health of the public.
The bridging function offers the potential to bring more shared value to both employers and communities. Unlike a one-off tax break, connecting firms to a broader system of supportive business and social groups could yield higher profits while bringing more economic opportunities to struggling families and communities. This approach represents a shift from transactional to more relationship-focused economic development and has gained attention among economic development practitioners. Its execution, however, requires locally rooted partnerships and organized stakeholders that can actually deliver shared value to businesses, workers, and communities.
Prosper Portland’s engagement with dozens of non-profits related to entrepreneurship, workforce development, education, and social justice and community building allows businesses to quickly find the right partnerships to succeed in meeting pubic benefits requirements.