By Corey Paul
Portland's urban renewal agency celebrated a changing of the guard at its meeting on Wednesday, officially appointing Patrick Quinton as its new executive director while bidding thanks and farewell to the retiring leader he replaces, Bruce Warner.
Addressing the board, Quinton mentioned some of his priorities: Find a way to augment the declining tax increment financing money, narrow the widening gap between the rich and poor, tighten urban renewal areas for frugality and focus, and create jobs.
"Out of the worst recession in our lifetime emerged the City's first strategic economic plan and an opportunity for growth," Quinton said, wearing a "Jobs" pin on his lapel.
Quinton faces difficult challenges. The Portland Development Commission's budget isn't what it used to be, with expiring urban renewal districts and declining revenue. About 20 employes will be laid off next month, the agency is negotiating a new contract with the union, and there's still the lengthy and convoluted projects that PDC is developing, such as Burnside Bridgehead and Centennial Mills.
All those factors contributed to PDC's desire for a smooth transition and its choice to promote an internal employee to director. Quinton formerly managed PDC's business and industry division. Besides the benefit of his familiarity and shared vision with PDC, hiring Quinton offered the added benefit of avoiding an expensive and time-consuming national search, said Board Chairman Scott Andrews.
Since PDC hired Quinton in 2008 to manage the South Waterfront's North Macadam Urban Renewal, he helped create the Portland Seed Fund and recruited ReVolt Technology and Vestas Americas headquarters. When in 2009 Quinton was promoted to head the business and industry division, he began implementing the agency's economic development strategy and cluster concepts.
Quinton, 45, is notably younger than Warner, 61. He also spent 16 years before coming to PDC working in the private sector at Textron Financial and ShoreBank Corp. in Chicago, compared to Warner's decades of experience in public administration.
Warner has been widely credited for restoring the commission's reputation and improving transparency and accountability.
"Bruce came on at a really difficult time because the PDC was square in the center of public focus and not necessarily for the right reasons," said Commissioner Charles Wilhoite.
Questions from City Hall and the community swirled around PDC about oversight and spending. Warner proved a stabilizing force as City Hall assumed oversight of PDC in 2007.
Warner announced his retirement in early December, but agreed to stay on during the search for his replacement and the drafting of a new budget. Commissioners praised that decision as sign of his leadership.
"We're going to miss Bruce," said Commission Secretary John Mohlis. "But I think we're in a good position to carry on in a good fashion."
Corey Paul is an associate writer for Oregon Business.