Wonks R Us

Where Public Policy and Small Business Meet

Tag Archives: economic development

Hey software developers, tell us who you are

If you’re involved with Portland’s software community, you know that there’s an amazing variety and depth of work being created at companies large and small, in hobby side-projects, and open source efforts. The City of Portland has selected software as one of its economic development clusters for the economic plan currently being written. Agencies like the Portland Development Commission (PDC) are involved in documenting our software community and developing a plan for working with it, but they lack accurate data on the types of software development local organizations are undertaking, and have limited experience with the kinds of small companies, ad hoc organizations, and independent work that forms much of our technology efforts.

We’d like to assist the PDC and City of Portland efforts by initiating a software community census to:

* Gather some basic demographics about Portland’s tech community

* Flesh out what work people are doing and for whom

* Build a baseline so we can quantitatively track the community’s breadth and depth

How can you participate?

* Take the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KTGSH9Q before May 17

* Spread the word to your colleages, coworkers and friends

* We will be posting the results online, so check back with Silicon Florist and your community tech organizations for details.

What do we get out of this? This census will:

* Ensure economic development efforts are targeted to what our industry actually needs

* Provide data that can be used to assess the success of economic development efforts

* Create an accurate picture of our amazing tech community (and give us bragging rights at OSCON).

* Market Portland to companies like Involver who are coming to check out Portland!

How our work fits into the City of Portland’s plans:

* Software is the of the 5 clusters identified in Portland Economic Development Plan. It is the cluster that is least well defined in the plan.

* PDC took the first step with their survey. Now we are helping them flesh out their results and better target their efforts.

* We will be sharing our survey’s results directly with the Mayor and PDC’s Urban Development Director, Erin Flynn.

The survey will be open through the end of May, but we strongly encourage you to complete the survey by May 17th so we can include your data in the results we share at the next Lunch 2.0.

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…And we’re back!

For reasons that don’t bear further exploration at this juncture, I have had a hard time finishing blog posts for the last 6 months.  I would get myself all riled up about something, start a post, lose my momentum, and that was all she wrote.  But, I am now back to herding all different kinds of cats (even invisible ones).

First some background. A long, long time ago, when CubeSpace was just a baby and before the world’s economy imploded, I initiated a series of conversations with business-people and local governments about addressing the perennial funding issues facing Portland’s microbusinesses.  My take is that as a city that explicitly values local businesses, we should also be willing to put our money where are mouths are.

My thought was that by creating our own revolving loan fund, we could help business-owners who needed short-term operating capital to manage cash-flow issues.  My idea was to create of pool of individual investments ranging from $10,000-$25,000.    I also had a (pipe) dream of securing a public match (via the Oregon Investment Fund or Oregon InC.)  The only questions remaining were where to house the funds and who would manage the loans.

I wasn’t able to answer those last two questions before the economy took its precipitous downturn.  But, I can be patient when I need to be, so I tucked the idea aside and waited.  Good things do happen to those that wait. While my idea was laying dormant, credit unions started taking on business customers.

Fast forward to now.  A few months ago I met a woman named Yolanda Karp who has spent much of her career working in local banks and credit unions.  It didn’t take long before we realized that we shared a vision in common.  She started talking to her colleagues at OnPoint, Unitus and Shorebank and got a very positive response.

Yolanda and I have both been hearing from experienced business-owners that the economy has brought them new challenges (and to be fair, a couple of new resources).     There is an ever-growing population of “Involuntary Entrepreneurs” who have given up looking for work and are trying to hit the ground running with their businesses.   We think it is high time for an environmental scan of Portland’s microbusinesses.

That is where we need your help.  In order to run two focus groups of microentrepreneurs, we need to recruit 30 microbusiness-owners. We are defining microbusiness as businesses with either 5 of fewer employees or annual gross receipts of less than $250,000.  We are hoping for a participant distribution that looks roughly like this:

  • 4 Retail Businesses.
  • 4 Restaurants
  • 2 Food carts
  • 4 Sole Proprietors
  • 6 Professional offices with staff (accountants, lawyers, consultants, etc.)
  • 4 Software Developers
  • 2 Information Systems/Network Administration
  • 2 Financial Services
  • 2 Tourism/Hospitality

We would like a good mix of gender and ethnicity, so please keep that in mind.  We are also hoping to recruit some immigrant business-owners because they represent a significant percentage of Portland’s microbusinesses.

If you or someone you know would like to participate in one of the focus groups, please contact me via email at evaschweber [at] gmail [dot] com, leave a comment on this blog, tweet me @evacatherder or call me at 503-310-4645.

Thanks in advance!