Portland lands $2.1M for cleantech initiative
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon
The greater Portland region will funnel $2.1 million in federal funds into its cleantech sector.
The Portland region on Thursday won $2.1 million of the $37 million made available by the White House and multiple federal agencies through the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge announced in May.
The city of Portland's Portland Development Commission, Worksystems Inc. and the Oregon Microenterprise Network will share the money and cooperate on what's being called the Portland Regional Clean Tech Advance Initiative.
The program will focus on job training and facilitating access to capital for startups developing promising clean technologies. It will also seek to connect the region's manufacturing capacity with its growing cleantech cluster.
"It's a complicated grant," said Sean Robbins, CEO of the economic development group Greater Portland Inc., which helped bring together more than 20 organizations from Oregon and southwest Washington to design the program. "It's focused on the commercialization of new cleantech technologies and how to move them from design to market. And, when we do that, on how to connect existing businesses with the supply chain and how we align the workforce to support it."
While 125 regions applied for the grants, the Portland region is one of only 20 selected by the federal government. EnterpriseSeattle received a similar sized grant for its Washington Interactive Media Accelerator Initiative.
Regions were selected based on their need for job creation and the capacity to collaborate and implement the program.
"Our unemployment rate is higher than anyone would like and the only way we're going to effectively change that is by working concert with each other," Robbins said.
The cleantech industry was selected as a focus because of the region's growing reputation as a leader in the industry.
Chris Harder, a manager within the business and industry team at PDC, said cleantech is also closely linked to the region's advanced manufacturing cluster.
About half of the grant, around $1 million, will be PDC's to administer. It will be funneled into the business community in three ways:
- Commercialization grants. PDC will partner with OregonBEST and provide funding for its commercialization grant program.
- Supply chain development. PDC will further fund its effort to help existing companies get into the business of supplying new cleantech sectors. The PDC's work with the wind energy cluster is one example.
- Research and development. PDC will work with Manufacturing 21 and area universities to connect companies with researchers under a program called Northwest Collaboratory for Sustainable Manufacturing.
"When we started working on this we talked about how we could design everything new or we could use what we were already doing," Harder said, adding that by leveraging existing economic development programs, PDC will be able to put the money from the grant to work more quickly, with the intent of creating jobs.
"This is a great opportunity for the region’s workforce boards to support our manufacturing industry and workers to take advantage of the growing opportunities in clean technology," said Andrew McGough, executive director of Worksystems, in a press release.
The federal challenge was set up to nurture industry clusters across the country in an effort to mimic the economic success of places such as California's Silicon Valley and North Carolina's Research Triangle Park.
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