A year in review with Westside Economic Alliance
As Westside Economic Alliance (WEA) wraps up 2017, it seems like a good time to reflect on our organization's activities and accomplishments for the year. It has been a year where members were engaged and dug deeper into issues. It's been busy, and it's been productive.
At the beginning of 2017, it was logical to focus on transportation because the Oregon Legislature was in the midst of considering a state transportation package.
At the same time, Washington County and the Portland metropolitan region were facing a housing crisis, making housing a focal point as well for the organization. Fortunately for WEA, it already has a strong Transportation Committee and a well-established Land Use and Housing Committee. Frank Angelo from Angelo Planning is a seasoned veteran when it comes to transportation and has been leading the WEA Transportation Committee since before we were WEA (the organization was created as a merger of two organizations back in 1998).
Mimi Doukas from AKS Engineering chairs the Land Use and Housing Committee and is also strong in her field.
At Westside Economic Alliance, we work collaboratively with our members. As the African proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." This held true as we gathered key leaders to form advisory committees for both a "Housing Month" and a "Transportation Month." The advisory committees were made up of WEA members from the private sector, the public sector and non-profits. Together they brought the organization more positive energy, creativity and knowledge we otherwise would not have. I was thrilled with the outcomes of their efforts.
In June, WEA hosted the "Housing Month," which started with a Housing Summit kicked off by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. It also featured Economist Jerry Johnson and 17 other speakers on three separate panels, who are well versed in housing issues. The event highlighted the cost of housing, housing and employment, and the social aspects surrounding housing. We finished the month with a Breakfast Forum with former Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ron Sims. Sims was motivational in his presentation, he answered audience members' questions and he was given a standing ovation for his efforts.
Over the course of the winter and spring, WEA worked with its partners to encourage the Oregon Legislature to pass a transportation package. In August, we celebrated with our partners as Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed the historic $5.3 billion transportation package. For the Westside, it brings much-needed funding to Highway 217, and it provides transportation funding to almost every corner of the state. This was a wonderful accomplishment, and it's a good start for the work that needs to be done.
In September, WEA and its Transportation Committee hosted a "Transportation Month." It featured a Transportation Conference where we had the unique opportunity to bring together ODOT Director Matt Garrett and Washington's Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar. There were also two panel discussions with 10 transportation thought leaders, who focused their discussions on "building a world class transportation system" and "funding a world class transportation system." The conference's keynote speaker was the former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation John Porcari. In addition to the conference, we hosted WEA's 4th Annual Economic Development Bike Tour, which rolled through the streets and trails of Wilsonville.
In November, we and Community Partners for Affordable Housing invited the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's Carl Guardino to be the presenting speaker at our Breakfast Forum. Guardino shared his experience leading housing efforts in the Bay Area and how he and other leaders formed a housing trust that has brought 15,000 housing opportunities to more than 27,000 people. He too was an inspirational, positive and passionate speaker that brought rave reviews.
It truly has been an amazing year. Throughout 2017, we had many events and activities with a total of close to 2,000 registrations. Our weekly newsletter, which reports on key issues and upcoming activities was read more than 24,000 times.
With all these events and activities in 2017, we have learned some important concepts that you will see reflected in our activities during 2018. We recognize that our members and elected officials want the opportunity to meet and discuss issues. It's also obvious, through our active engagement in transportation and housing issues, these two topics are inextricably linked, and we'll be working together on these issues in 2018.
Come join us as we continue important discussions in 2018. We welcome new members and enjoy introducing them to our organization.
Pamela Treece is the executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance. Her column appears monthly, addressing issues that are critical to the economic health of the Westside. Learn more about the WEA at: westsidealliance.org