The Community Investment Initiative, a Metro-facilitated but independent think tank charged with looking at strategies for economic growth, announced its Leadership Council on Wednesday, giving the region a first look at the organization's core group.
The Council consists of 28 business leaders, community nonprofit representatives, educators and former elected officials. The group was assembled through a lengthy process involving Metro staff and representatives from the Initiative's steering committee, five of whom are also on the Council.
Their charge is open-ended. Metro Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan spoke at length last year about assembling a group to, first, identify regional problems hindering economic development, and second, develop solutions for those problems.
A few weeks after the Council's first meeting, an e-mail with the subject "Leaders for regional prosperity" and signed by Council members Burton Weast and Karen Williams was distributed.
"The Leadership Council is convening to bring private-sector leaders into collaboration with the public sector to focus on improving the region's fabric for economic development," Weast and Williams wrote. "We're pleased to report that community leaders with diverse skills and backgrounds have eagerly agreed to serve."
For Weast, the director of the Clackamas County Business Alliance who's been working on putting the Council together for a year, the first meeting was positive.
"It was also exciting to see such a great range of leaders in the community," Weast said in an interview Wednesday. "It was probably most gratifying when they grasped the needs and grasped the idea that we have to do something for this region."
Williams, in an interview, said the project is deliberately vague from the get-go.
"A little bit of tolerance for ambiguity about the specifics of the assignment is very healthy right now, because it encourages people to come into the room and have a deep discussion about what the needs and priorities are," she said, "and how the public and private sector can work together to solve them."
The group isn't just diverse in the sense of its members' employment backgrounds. Representatives from Clackamas and Washington counties make up a fair portion of its membership, as do representatives of the Portland region's minority communities.
"Do we have a wide net? Do we have community representation? Yes," Williams said. "Am I personally satisfied? Rarely… It's about bringing understanding, voices and thinking together from a base of diverse experiences and diverse interests in the community. We're not going to battle it out among competing interests. We're going to think collaboratively in order to find multidisciplinary, well-thought-out solutions."
The group meets again March 9.