So it’s a broken record but another day from dawn until dusk including an overnight flight from the West Coast to the Kansas City in the Mid-West (what was I thinking when I booked that?). Tuesday was a day of the usual inspiration I’ve come to expect from the people I met tempered with missing loved ones back home on my birthday and then losing my camera…grrr!
First up this morning was Craig, who is the Executive Director of RDI. They run a number of programs in Oregon and across other states. Essentially their focus is on people and enabling them to develop resilient communities. Craig has some great views on the importance of locally based staff (very applicable to NZ given the NZ Initiatives great work on localism) and the interdependence of urban and rural on each other. Collaboration is key part of their organisations success and the education sector was identified as vital to enabling communities and businesses. Oregon is big on ‘buying local’, and a great example is Country Natural Beef (previously called Oregon Country Beef) which is a cooperative that has some similarities to the origins of Taupo Beef.
Next up was Tricia, Chief Operating Officer of Worksystems. This was a very intriguing meeting as it is whole industry that doesn’t really exist in NZ. Worksystems exists to improve the quality of the workforce, broadly focusing on dislocated workers, adults and youth. There’s some very innovative program designs, my favourite is Code Oregon which is getting more people coding to meet the large current and projected shortage of skills in IT. The buzz word collaboration surfaced again but it really is everything in economic development. I was impressed by their partnerships with industry and all levels of government, whilst they are doing some great work in measuring success or effectiveness of programs. Tricia (like me) believes the quality of life better in smaller locations than cities… will people move for it though?
Bestplaces is the go to site in US for where to live. They’ve done some very smart things using a of range data, smart insights like a stability index and more importantly they provide some great insight. I wonder what a similar website would look like in NZ? Bert, Gretchen and Bertrand very kindly gave me a complete tour of Portland from mid afternoon well into the evening. Like all the people who I’ve met on this trip, I hope to repay the favour some day “down under”. Portland is often held up as an example of great urban planning and it’s obvious to see why with some great mixed use buildings and high density buildings (only planners will know what these mean) combining to create some very funky neighbourhoods. The urban city limit is presenting some challenges as the city tries to intensify…sound familiar Auckland? The overriding insight from Bert on small towns was having quality of life and strongly marketing that as a point of difference – how do you stand out from the crowd though?