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Wednesday December 20, 2023

WEA hosts final forum of 2023

Making our voice heard.

In 2023 Westside Economic Alliance hosted eight in person forums, two online forums plus countless committees. We sat at the Metro Freight and Commodity study table, the Statewide Toll Rulemaking Advisory Committee and continue to sit at Metro's Urban Growth Report Stakeholder table. We have worked hard to convene important and meaningful conversations about what it takes to lead our own growth as a region, what it looks like to build truly innovative public-private partnerships, and have asked questions about how we realize a vibrant future for our region.

One of the challenges we face is ensuring that when "regional" conversations are convened, voices from Washington and Clackamas counties (we represent both), are not just at the table, but are at the table in a meaningful and equal way as those from the central city. In 2023, we worked hard to make sure that we got to the tables where we thought that voice needed to be heard.

In 2024 we will continue this work.

We truly believe that in our role as convenor we can bring together the public, private and non-profit sector to have the hard conversations. Let's talk about what it would take to have meaningful tax reform. Let's lean into a conversation about finding some fixes for our land use system. Let's bring together folks who want to invest in the middle class by building smart and clean manufacturing in our region. And let's have the critical conversation about what it looks like to have true investment in our infrastructure - which includes roads and bridges - and water - and broadband... and more.

We can't get any of these big things done until we have these conversations - openly - honestly - and in public forums. That's the sort of work we will be doing at WEA in 2024 and beyond, and I hope you'll join us.

In the meantime, I hope you take a minute to review our newsletter all the way to the bottom where we share some highlights from our 2023.

Happy holidays to you and yours.


News & Notes

I-5 Bridge received critical federal funds.

Late last week the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program has been awarded $600 million from the USDOT’s Mega Grant program. This is an important step to building a seismically resilient, multimodal I-5 bridge that reduces congestion, improves safety, and creates economic opportunities for the surrounding community. The new bridge will provide better travel options for people who use transit, walk, bike, and drive.

Federal grants of this scale are the result of coordinated advocacy and detailed grant applications. WEA member Espousal Strategies provided public affairs support and helped convene a dynamic bi-state coalition of community partners and local leaders who are dedicated to connecting Cascadia and centering equity in both process and outcomes.

The Interstate Bridge Replacement program award is the largest among 11 infrastructure projects funded across the country, teeing up the region to receive additional federal funding for this groundbreaking collaboration between Washington and Oregon.

Helping close the GAP on winter bills

This year NW Natural’s Gas Assistance Program (GAP) turns 41. Since 1982, GAP has raised more than $6.7 million on behalf of customers who face financial challenges. NW Natural customers, employees and shareholders all donate to the program, and a network of community action groups distribute the funds directly to those who need them, including low-income families and seniors. Over the years GAP has helped pay heating bills for more than 60,000 customers.

NW Natural’s customers and shareholders contributed $160,000 to the GAP program in the past year. This year, NW Natural shareholders will match the first $60,000 in contributions to the program. The company also covers all of GAP’s administrative costs so 100% of the funds can be donated to recipients.

Donation funds are distributed to the following community action networks, which screen all low-income recipients. 

  • Clackamas County Social Services Division — Clackamas County 
  • Clark Public Utilities District — Clark County 
  • Community Action Organization — Washington County

New shelter breaks ground in Washington County

Just Compassion hosted a groundbreaking event to celebrate the future permanent, year-round shelter and access center construction at their current Tigard Day Center and temporary shelter location. The new Just Compassion Resource Center and shelter will provide 60 shelter beds in a trauma informed living space specifically designed to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness and connect them with long-term housing.

The construction of the shelter and ongoing operations will be funded by the Washington County allocation of the Supportive Housing Services measure. The site also received $4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding through the sponsorship of Rep. Dacia Grayber, Rep. Courtney Neron and former Senator Ginny Burdick. Additional funding was provided by the Oregon Community Foundation, Energy Trust of Oregon, Washington County Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) CareOregon, Just Compassion supporters, donors, and fundraisers.

Representative Dacia Grayber said, “Our guiding light in this process was to fund local projects that would provide the most support to those with the greatest need at this time. Oregon is on its way back, and as your state legislators we are committed to supporting our districts in transformative and equitable ways as we turn the page on the pandemic.” 

“The expanded Just Compassion Campus brings valuable and needed service capacity to Tigard,” explained Tigard Mayor Heidi Lueb. “By adding 60 shelter beds and a dedicated resource center, community members will have greater access to safe, stable places to sleep and other supports than ever before. I’m proud to see the Tigard community taking major steps to achieve our Council Goal of reducing houselessness.”

The Just Compassion Shelter site will be included within Washington County’s robust shelter program which currently offers over 400 beds/rooms of shelter county-wide.

Upcoming WEA Events


Goodbye, 2023. Hello, 2024!

WEA out and about in 2023

Thanks to everyone who was a part of our amazing 2023. We wanted to end this year with a few snapshots of some of our forums, as well as a few of us out and about in the community.

To our members we say a sincere Thank You.


Elizabeth and Dani

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