Adams tests Brazilian cleantech business waters

Sam Adams talked up Portland's green business credentials in Brazil.

Mayor Sam Adams talked up Portland's green business credentials in Brazil.

While Portland Mayor Sam Adams visited Sao Paulo, Brazil to share his insights on clean technology investments and energy efficiency, his trip could, one day, mean much, much more.

Adams, in a five-day trip that revolves around the C40 Cities Climate Summit, is spending part of his time prospecting for possible Brazilian companies that might look to establish a Pacific Northwest presence. Adams met with Brazilian and U.S. economic development types to broach future growth opportunities. While Adams called Brazil “an emerging superpower,” Portland remains a bit of a business mystery to South American companies and investors.

“We gave them a feel on what the possibilities might be for Portland in terms of operations and joint ventures,” Adams said in a phone call from Sao Paulo. “Sales is about prospecting, and this is definitely a prospecting trip. We’re not well-known here. Folks don’t know that Nike’s in the Portland region. But while our visibility is low, our opportunities are significant.”

Organizers of the C40 conference paid for Adams’ trip.

During the trip, Adams has served on panels in which he detailed Portland’s green industry development tools, including his economic development plan that is nurturing several environmental business sectors, and framed the city as a “living laboratory” for innovative businesses.

He also discussed such programs as Clean Energy Works Oregon, which started as a Portland pilot project that helps homeowners better equip their houses with energy-conserving materials.

Adams also told the mayor-attendees about Portland’s EcoDistricts initiative, in which resources would be reused and transportation options would be easily procured. Portland hopes to develop such areas in the Lloyd District, around Portland State University and in the Lents neighborhood.

Along the way, Adams crowed about one of his recent successes: attracting SoloPower Inc. to Portland after Wilsonville activists effectively scuttled the solar company’s deal to expand to the Portland suburbs. He also pointed out that the area hosts SolarWorld AG and a growing number of solar industry suppliers.

Adams, who returns Saturday, is impressed with his hosts’ entrepreneurial bent. Brazil’s gross domestic product is rising by 7.5 percent yearly (the United States’ figure dropped between 2007 and 2009) and some 30 million residents have been lifted out of poverty during the last decade.

“It’s an economy that’s moving forward very quickly,” Adams said. “Given that (the conference) is paying for the trip, it’s a good time to see what kind of prospects there might be here.”

Fifty-two mayors are attending the conference. Adams sat in on a Wednesday conference with former President Bill Clinton. Clinton was on hand as Adams and 39 other mayors signed an agreement with the World Bank to launch projects that combat climate change.

Adams had met Clinton before, but had generally remained in the background as Clinton chatted with Adams’ former boss Mayor Vera Katz.

In Brazil, Clinton “was forthright, charming, funny and poignant,” Adams reported.

Adams also gave Sao Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab a Portland Timbers jersey and a team scarf. The Major League Soccer franchise has raised Portland’s world profile, Adams said.

“It’s a common bond,” he explained. “Almost every mayor I’ve met from inside and outside the U.S. knows about the Timbers.”


@andygiegerich | agiegerich@bizjournals.com | 503-219-3419

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