Drive Oregon gets green light from Kitzhaber
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon
Arcimoto at the Portland International Auto Show in January
When Gov. John Kitzhaber released his proposed budget last week, a virtual cheer went up from the electric vehicle community.
A bullet point in the proposed budget sets aside $19 million in lottery funds for continued investment through the Oregon Innovation Council. It is full funding for the council's bundle of programs — which was anything but guaranteed given a gaping shortfall for current programs — and means that the council's newest initiative, Drive Oregon, will receive an initial budget.
Drive Oregon was proposed by a coalition of Oregon's electric vehicle companies and received a stamp of approval from Oregon InC in August. The council then included the initiative, designed to nurture Oregon's EV cluster and create jobs, in its funding request.
"The green light from the governor was a huge boost for the Drive Oregon folks," said James Mast, a project manager at the Portland Development Commission who leads the electric vehicle cluster efforts.
Mast said the PDC has been working with EV companies since 2009 to form an industry group and helped Drive Oregon members establish a presence at the Portland International Auto Show last month.
Mark Frohnmayer, CEO of Eugene-based Arcimoto and a Drive Oregon board member, said Drive Oregon was designed to survive as much as possible even if funding wasn't made available.
"Having this funding by the Legislature will just allow us to execute on our plan more effectively," he said.
Of course the funding has yet to be approved by the Oregon Legislature, though Kitzhaber's budget recommendations are being met with surprisingly little friction in the Capitol.
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