A Q+A with David Packard, Portland Downtown's Board Chair
How has Portland Downtown handled COVID-19 with regard to its staff, board, and stakeholders?

Our staff and board were able to respond very quickly and make changes to allow both our staff and board to work and meet remotely. Our top priority as an organization was to make sure that the downtown community received important news & updates in a timely fashion. As a downtown improvement district, we're able to disseminate information very efficiently to a wide range of stakeholders including business & property owners, employees, residents, nonprofit partners, and more. The pandemic changed all of our lives very rapidly, but we're grateful to remain connected through Zoom meetings, webinars, and one-on-one chats with business leaders and community members.

What we've been hearing is that many of the financial resources that are available are either not a great fit for small businesses or that the demand for resources quickly outstripped the supply. Our executive director has been meeting with local leaders and city officials to monitor micro loans and micro grants that are being discussed by the City of Portland's Economic Development Department. We hope we'll have more to share in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, we continue to monitor changes and support the work of the city and state as they navigate some very difficult decisions that balance public health and safety with economic well-being. These are unprecedented times, so we are all doing the best we can.

Portland Downtown announced an executive search in January. How is that going?

While we are going to miss our current executive director, Casey Gilbert, we are also very excited for her new endeavors. In June, Casey will return to Melbourne, Florida to start a consulting firm and explore teaching opportunities at local universities.

Casey has also been instrumental in helping us with our executive search. In total, our search committee received more than one hundred resumes from interested candidates. Not only do we have an active and engaged search committee, but we have also curated an advisory panel to join us for the second round interviews, which will begin next week.

Our hope is to have time to transition the new executive director before Casey makes her way south in mid-June. We look forward to introducing our new team member to our stakeholders and the greater community, so we'll be sure to tell you more as soon as we can!

What is on the horizon for Portland Downtown?

Our board of directors just approved our new five year strategic plan, which has four focus areas: Serve, Enhance, Engage, and Achieve. We will be focusing on organizational excellence as well as continuing to create value for our stakeholders and the wider community. The board wants to ensure that our programs, services, and events are supporting our organizational mission to stimulate a thriving, vibrant, and sustainable downtown community, while also ensuring that the outcomes of those efforts are net positive.

We have active and engaged committees that are all working toward our mission and are passionate about downtown. Our staff is dedicated and enthusiastic about our work and they also have a blast making sure that everything we do is done with care and purpose. In the coming weeks, we'll be releasing our most recent annual report, so be on the lookout for that in your inbox.

Finally, I just want to thank all of our friends, supporters, and stakeholders for continuing to cheer us on. Our organization has been around since 1992 and we hope that we can continue to serve downtown Portland for decades to come.