PORTLAND — In a coup for Jed Rathband’s campaign, the Portland Community Chamber named him its No. 1 choice today for the city’s first popularly elected mayor in 88 years.

Rathband, who has never held or run for political office, said he was “surprised but thrilled” with the endorsement. “My economic message is obviously catching on,” he said.

The Portland Community Chamber is a group that advocates for about 600 local employers, according to Chris O’Neil, the chamber’s liaison to the city. In a press release today, Michael Bourque, president of the chamber, said Rathband’s economic message and communication skills persuaded the chamber to endorse him.

“Rathband brings the right balance of fresh thinking and political experience to the new mayor position,” Borque said. “He is solid on the issues, high energy and a great communicator. He’ll be a bridge to the new Portland that so many of our members want.

“We note Rathband’s vision of a school system which would attract young, innovative people to the city where they can not only live but start a business. Rathband has also offered the most specific plans for attracting business to Portland.”

Rathband, a political consultant, has made education the cornerstone of his campaign, and said it is vital to the city’s economy. He has advocated re-working the school and city budgets to invest more into Portland Public Schools’ Gifted and Talented program.

Having a nationally acclaimed program for high-achievers will attract innovators to the city who want to send their kids to the most challenging and acclaimed schools, he said. Those innovators will then create jobs in the city, he said.

“We’re not going to find one company to land us 10,000 jobs,” he said, quoting New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. “We’re going to find 1,000 individuals who create 10 jobs apiece. That’s development in the modern era, and great schools can attract those people.”

In addition to that proposal, Rathband has promised to make at least 25 calls to out-of-state businesses per week to try to entice them to relocate to Portland.

Besides Rathband, the chamber also said three other candidates — City Councilors David Marshall and Nick Mavodones, and Ethan Strimling — are “worthy of mention.”

The chamber said Marshall “brings a wealth of energy and ideas to the race” and gave more detailed responses to the chamber’s questions than any other candidate.

It said Mavodones has “an experienced, steady hand in Portland government.” Lastly, it said Strimling has “gained attention with his call for strong, accountable leadership and with a pro-development agenda designed to remove barriers to growth in the city.”

But the chamber also listed why it didn’t endorse those three candidates. Marshall hasn’t developed the leadership skills to go along with his intellect yet, it said. Mavodones doesn’t fit the voters’ call for change. And Strimling only recently turned to a pro-growth position, the chamber said, “and this leaves room for uncertainty.”

“People who are interested in a robust Portland economy should rate (these three) high on their ranked-choice ballot,” the release said. “Each could prove successful as a Portland mayor.”