Portland Mayor Michael Brennan’s effort to raise the minimum wage in the city gets underway on Thursday when a group of city officials, business leaders, faith groups, universities and social service agencies holds their first meeting, according to a press release from the city.

About 22 people from 17 organizations have been invited to join, or have expressed interest in joining, the advisory group, Brennan said.

“Not everybody has agreed they want to be a part of the discussion,” Brennan said. “I’m just trying to get a broad perspective.”

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the president and chief operating officer of Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, will co-chair the group along with Brennan.

Brennan unveiled his minimum wage proposal during his State of the City address on Feb. 2 as a way to combat income inequality.

Maine’s minimum wage is $7.50 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

The group will advise Brennan about what Portland’s minimum wage should be.

“My hope is to bring something before the council sometime this fall,” he said.

Some businesses owners, especially restaurants have criticized the idea, saying it would lead to price increases and limit their ability to give raises to employees who earn more than the minimum wage.

Brennan tried to blunt the argument that a higher minimum wage would negatively impact the city’s business climate during his address, by saying Portland will always be a good place to do business.

In February, Brennan noted that Portland’s unemployment rate was around 4.8 percent. At the time, the state’s unemployment rate was 6.1 percent and the national rate was 6.6 percent.

In 2013, Portland saw a nearly $60 million increase in private investment over 2012, from $32 million to $91 million. Another $150 million in development is currently under consideration, he said.

Income inequality is increasingly coming to foreground nationally.

Pope Francis recently condemned the growing wage gap.

On Feb. 12, Pres. Barack Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage of federally contracted employees to $10.10 an hour.

Meanwhile, eight U.S. cities and counties have set minimum wages above state and federal minimums, according to the National Employment Law Project.

In California, where the state minimum wage is $8 an hour, San Francisco has a minimum wage of $10.74 an hour, while San Jose’s minimum is $10.15.

The highest minimum wage, according to the law project, is in Washington, D.C., where the minimum wage is $11.50 an hour.

Portland’s minimum wage advisory group will meet on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in Room 209 of City Hall.

Those invited to join Brenna’s advisory group are: David Beseda, University of New England; Doug Born, Local 114 Maine; Charles Colgan, University of Southern Maine; Andy Graham, Creative Portland; Chris Hall, Portland Chamber; Michael Hillard, University of Maine; Suzanne McCormick, Sadie Kitchen; Dan Coin, of the United Way of Greater Portland; Reverend Kenneth Lewis, Green Memorial AME Zion Church;Wells Lyons, Rogue Industries; Maine League of Young Voters;Tom MacMillan, Maine Green Independent Party; Greg Mitchell, city of Portland;Thalassa Raasch, Portland Buy Local; Ann Nadzo, Goodwill Industries of NNE; Mark Rees, city of Portland; Rebeccah Schaffner, Greater Portland Council of Governments; Father Michael Seavey, Portland Diocese; Mike Tarpinian, Opportunity Alliance; Eliza Townsend, Maine Women’s Lobby; and Danielle West-Chuta, city of Portland.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: @randybillings