Qatar’s relationship with Oregon goes back decades. Since 1971, “about one in every 200 Qataris has gone to school in Oregon,” says Paul Pawlowski, SERA Architects’ senior urban designer and planner and point man for its Gulf region operations.
It’s more than likely that one of those one-out-of-every-200 Qataris knows someone who has spent time with Marvin Kaiser, dean emeritus of PSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Kaiser has traveled to Qatar numerous times, as a PSU liaison and as a wedding guest of current and former students. “It isn’t just a business relationship,” he says. “It’s about the [personal] relationships and other things follow from that.”
Nancy Hamilton, senior policy adviser on economic development for former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, drew on Oregon’s personal network and longtime history with Qatar during a spring 2009 trip to an international green building conference in Phoenix. There she ran into Greg Acker of New York-based Turner Construction. Turner was contracted by the Qatari government to lead the development of Musherib, an 84-acre version of Portland’s Pearl District in Doha.
“I was thinking that we should export our intellectual capital on this,” says Hamilton, referring to Oregon’s advances in dry-land agriculture and sustainable development. On a trip to Washington, D.C., later that year, Hamilton, Kulongoski and others from Oregon were also looking for funding for the Oregon Sustainability Center, a flagship for the state’s sustainable architecture prowess set for completion in 2014. The $65 million project on the eastern edge of PSU is expected to break ground in early 2012.
Hamilton heard that Joseph LeBaron, the U.S. ambassador to Qatar who is from Ontario, Ore., was in D.C. with Qatar National Food Security Program chairman Fahad Bin Mohammed Al-Attiya and Al-Thani, and arranged a meeting with LeBaron. With Kaiser’s history with Qatar and LeBaron’s ties to Oregon, it wasn’t hard to get it set up.