By Ilie Mitaru
The City of Portland Economic Development Strategy has a goal of creating 10,000 jobs within the next five years. The strategy directs reources to the city’s most promising industries, or clusters, with the intent to foster growth within these key areas. The initiative (passed by the city council over the summer) has fostered some prospects for job growth within the Portland metro area.
One such project is the newly dubbed Design Forum/PDX. The project is a joint effort by the City of Portland, Portland Development Commission, the Oregon University System and a myriad of private sector businesses, including Ziba Design and Nike.
“The Design Forum/PDX is a cross-disciplinary resource and initiative that supports more than one of the key industry clusters identified in the city’s strategy,” said PDC staff and board member Jennifer Nolfi about the role of the project in respect to Portland’s Economic Development Strategy. “This collaborative opportunity to bring together public and private sectors, industry and higher education will further Portland’s competitiveness.”
A materials resource library is the first initiative of Design Forum/PDX. The library will be the only such resource on the West Coast, created with the hope that it will attract new talent and business from around the region, ultimately creating high-paying jobs and solidifying Portland’s standing as a global hub for design and innovation.
The library recently received nonprofit status and plans to sustain itself through a dual income scheme: materials companies that want space to display their latest products pay a sponsorship fee, while users pay a membership fee for access. No fee numbers have yet been decided, however Ziba Design executive managing director Sia Vossoughi said, “We are trying to make it as affordable as possible, for smaller, one and two man firms, because this is what Portland is all about.”
But the ambitions for the Design-Forum go well beyond the materials library. Frances Bronet, board member and dean of the School of Allied Arts at the University of Oregon, said in an email: “As the Design-Forum matures, it will ultimately be larger than the materials resource library. It will be a place where designers convene to research, to hear speakers, to be part of a larger conversation about design…We see it as a condenser for world-class design facilitation and discussion.”
PDC has reserved $1.1 million for the location in the River District Urban Renewal Area, and the board is working on obtaining the seed grants and sponsorships required to move the project forward. The hope is to open the library by October 2011.
Ilie Mitaru is a contributing writer for Oregon Business.