PORTLAND – After 18 months of planning, the city introduced its first comprehensive economic development plan Wednesday.

The 19-page document, presented at the monthly meeting of the City Council’s Community Development Committee, focuses on three major areas: expanding the employment and tax bases; enriching the creative economy; and supporting local business.

Greg Mitchell, the city’s economic development director, said, “It’s the first time we’ve ever had everybody moving in the same direction.” He noted that about a half-dozen local organizations contributed to the report.

The committee unanimously endorsed the plan, which will go to the council. Since three councilors — John Anton, Cheryl Leeman and Dory Waxman — comprise the Community Development Committee, the nine-member council will likely approve the plan.

The document contains an interesting mix of small, easily measured goals and broad, long-term initiatives.

For smaller goals, the plan says the city should prioritize funding to dredge Portland Harbor, which would enable larger ships to come into Portland.


It also calls for a “business visitation pilot program,” which would have the mayor, who will be elected Nov. 8, visit local businesses, get feedback and adjust the city’s policies and procedures based on that feedback.

The larger goals may take more time and officials may have more difficulty measuring their progress and successes.

One part of the plan calls for the continued distinction and growth of specific areas such as the Old Port, the downtown and Arts District, the Eastern Promenade and Bayside.

The plan also calls for marketing Portland’s creative economy nationally and internationally. That includes sectors such as design, culinary arts, textiles, fashion, writing, publishing and innovation.

Jodie Lapchick, a marketing strategist who is running for mayor, said marketing is the key to the city’s future success.

“We have all this creative talent,” she said. “But we need to get the word out to the rest of the world, which will end up eventually bringing even more talent here.”


A city-appointed task force worked with the Portland Community Chamber, Creative Portland, the Downtown Portland Corporation, Portland’s Downtown District andother organizations to develop the plan.

Graduate students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also helped, spending a semester preparing a community economic profile for Portland and developing preliminary economic development strategies with the task force.

Part of the plan, which arose from the MIT collaboration, involves targeting sectors that Portland has identified as high-growth and high-value areas, such as finance and insurance, food production and food service, biosciences, the arts, tourism and information technology.

The plan says the city should create work groups to target three of those sectors, analyze each, and develop a plan to expand them.

In all, the plan calls for 15 to 20 major goals, short-term and long-term.

City Councilor Jill Duson, another mayoral candidate, said implementing the plan is a major part of her platform.


“The other candidates are talking about coming up with economic development plans,” she said. “We don’t need to start from scratch and spend another 18 months coming up with a plan. We have a plan right here.”

She said the plan’s focus on local partnerships and regional goals is a step in the right direction.

Councilor Anton said, historically, the city has made economic development decisions reactively without a larger vision. It makes development decisions when a company threatens to leave if it doesn’t get a tax break, or a new developer comes to town.

A written plan with specific ideas will make the city more proactive in pursuing growth. “It gives us a road map,” he said. “It’s the beginning of looking at economic development strategically instead of reactively.”

Staff Writer Jason Singer can be contacted at 791-6437 or at:



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