April Program Recap
Multi-City Mayoral Discussion on Economic Development Challenges and Opportunities
By Trish Nixon, LRS Architects
Lisa LaManna with Pate LaManna Commercial, LLC moderated a lively discussion with three metro area city mayors on the Economic Development challenges and opportunities that each city faces. Mayor Shane Bemis with Gresham, Mayor Doug Neeley with Oregon City, and Mayor Lou Ogden with Tualatin shared their city’s histories and future visions with the group.
While the three cities are very different in many ways, there were also some interesting similarities. One was the current and future focus on industrial land development. Oregon City is especially challenged due to the lack of available shovel ready land resulting from old infrastructure. Gresham on the other hand has 220 acres of state certified Industrial land complete with infrastructure that the Port of Portland has purchased and entered into a partnership agreement with the City to develop. Tualatin not only has 600 acres of shovel ready industrial land but is working with the City of Wilsonville on some long term planning for the 2,000 acres of land that sits between them.
Both Oregon City and Gresham are very proud of their Main Street areas. Though it is the 4th largest city in population in the state, Gresham still has that “Mayberry” feeling, with Mayor Bemis boasting that they have the best Main Street in the country. This is due in part to that city’s very successful Garage to Storefront program that has taken 200,000 square feet of vacant storefronts in the downtown area and turned them into 160 new businesses.
Once made up mostly of absentee property owners, Oregon City’s Main Street has also undergone a dramatic transformation. In the last 10 years people have been purchasing properties and developing them using the City’s Storefront Grant program. Main Street is book-ended by 2 promising developments: the old Blue Herron Mill Site to the South and the Clackamette Cove site to the North. The Clackamette Cove project is moving forward with 800 housing units over commercial/retail space. While the Blue Herron site is currently on its fourth potential development, the City is focusing on public access improvements that will allow people to really enjoy the Willamette Falls. Mayor Neeley called it the “if they will come, they will build it approach”. The thinking is that if they can get people there, it will spur development.
Though Main Street is not as prominent in Tualatin, the City had the benefit of starting with a lot of green field sites and good planning that has provided a community where residential, commercial, and retail uses are where they want them to be. As Mayor Odgen put it “We are living the dream”. With half of their economic base coming from residential users and the other from commercial users they have a very balanced tax base and one of the lowest tax rates in the region. The City was fortunate that they had positive growth throughout the recession thanks to both retail and industrial developments. Their current Nyberg Rivers project will have businesses open as early as September this year.
Jo Economaki grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University where she had prepared for a career in journalism. After college she moved to the West Coast, and landed a job with a commercial mortgage company. Finding that she enjoyed the work, she began a lifelong career in the commercial real estate industry.
Jo spent many years working in real estate loan administration at Bank of America and its predecessor banks, the Oregon Bank and Security Pacific. More recently she has worked for Intervest Mortgage Investment Company, and she’s currently with US Bank’s Commercial Real Estate Lending Group, whose focus is providing financing, deposit and payment solutions for commercial investors and developers. In her current role, she manages the Loan Administration team. This group handles all aspects of closing transactions for clients, as well as being their bank liaison during construction and after the project is complete.
Jo enjoys the wide variety of projects that she is involved with on a day to day basis. She works with clients on construction lending, affordable multifamily- housing and short term financing and particularly enjoys learning about their businesses, and their visions for their real estate projects. Particularly rewarding is seeing a creative financing structure evolve that suits the uniqueness of an individual transaction and then coordinating all of the pieces that need to be finished to close the transaction on time!
In addition to her work at the bank, Jo has been a member of CREW since its inception. She has served on the board for a number of years, and is currently the Board Secretary and liaison for CorksCREW and the Scholarship Committee; she’s also a member of the Economic Forecast committee which she has chaired in the past. Formerly a member of OLMA, she helped to form the commercial closing committee for that organization. Through her position at the bank, she also participates in various volunteer activities, such as supporting the Oregon Food Bank.
In all aspects of her professional activities, Jo is grateful for the opportunity to become acquainted with, and inspired by, others in the industry.
Jo has two children, a son and a daughter, who she loves spending time with. As a former runner, she’s very active focusing on walking and hiking in her free time. She enjoys travel and has been to four continents so far, and closer to home, is an avid reader and book club member.