For the last eight months, the Portland City Council’s Economic Development Committee has sought to determine whether the City should establish an office focused on integrating immigrants into our local economy in order to ensure that Portlanders have access to job skills development, career counseling, and job placement services necessary to maximize individual potential and ensure a robust workforce.?
On Tuesday, November 22, the Committee will review the findings, take public comment, and potentially send a recommendation to the full Council. The meeting begins at 5:00 PM in Room 24 (Basement Level.)
“In order to ensure the vibrancy of Portland’s economy, employers must be able to hire the workforce they need so that they can grow and so that other employers will want to move here, while, at the same time, our community members must be employed on a pathway to their highest potential and can better integrate into Portland’s economy, said Councilor David Brenerman, Chair of the Economic Development Committee.
The City Manager’s Office began discussing this idea in September, 2015, and subsequently this issue was identified by the City Council and Mayor Strimling as one of the Council’s goals for 2016. The City Manager included funds in the 2016-2017 budget to study the issue.
"I'm pleased to see this initiative taking a major step forward, and I offer my appreciation to Councilor Brenerman and the members of the Council's Economic Development Committee for their work," said Mayor Ethan Strimling. "Now that there is a structure of a plan for stakeholders to comment on, I'm very interested to hear the public's input on how this office might help those populations in need. I think we all can agree that a targeted focus and adequate resources can have a major impact on ensuring access to economic opportunity and advancement, both for our newest neighbors as well as other underserved populations."
The Committee has held six public hearings, heard from service providers, community groups and individuals, looked at comparable northeastern cities, researched best practices from around the country, and held a public conference on the topic. As a result of public input, organizational presentations, national best practice research, and more than 25 meetings with organizations and community members, several key points of consensus emerged:
• Immigration is an important part of this city’s economic growth strategy and improving immigrant integration is critical to ensuring Portland’s work force and vitality.?
• Designating an office specifically for New Mainers is largely viewed as exclusive, given the need to also improve economic opportunity for youth, people of color, and other disadvantaged populations.?
Findings from the research show a consensus among those interviewed, as well as conference attendees, that the City does indeed have a role to play. The Committee’s research and public input seem to point to creating an Office of Economic Opportunity and Immigrant Integration. This Office would report directly to the City Manager’s office to ensure that it has as successful a start as possible. There would be a Director overseeing the Office, with a Program Manager implementing the Immigrant Integration efforts and a Program Manager implementing the Inclusion and Equity efforts focused on people of color.??