After more than a dozen years, Greg Mitchell is stepping down as the leader of the city of Portland’s economic development efforts.

Housing and Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell is stepping down from the position this week after 12 years of leading Portland’s economic development efforts. Contributed / City of Portland

“I am going to give early retirement a try, but frankly, I expect to be back in the workforce in a year or two in some capacity,” said Mitchell, 61, whose last day was June 7.

Mitchell said he wants to spend more time with his family.

“I am not leaving this job for another job,” he said.

The city’s director of economic development position has evolved during Mitchell’s tenure, he said, but it has remained focused on assisting businesses with employee retention and recruitment and expansion, as well as offering loan and grant programs. It also works with other key sectors of the community, including the working waterfront, immigrant population and creative economy. Since last year when the economic development department merged with the housing department, Mitchell has also overseen the housing division, which, among other things, focuses on affordable housing initiatives and community block grant fund projects.

“It has been an honor to work with Greg over the course of my six years with the city,” City Manager Jon Jennings said. “Because of Greg’s vast knowledge and skills, Portland is a much better place than when he started 12 years ago. He has led the effort to make strategic investments that have increased employment and educational opportunities in Portland.”

Mitchell has agreed to continue in a consulting capacity while the city searches for a new director.

Dinah Minot, executive director of Creative Portland, said Mitchell’s support of the arts through his economic development work will be missed. Mitchell has served on the Creative Portland board as an ex-officio member since the organization was formed in 2008.

“He has been an outstanding municipal leader, a solid community champion and a strong arts advocate,” Minot said. “He will be sorely missed for his good-natured spirit, his loyal dedication to public service and his understanding of the value of Portland’s cultural life in attracting innovative businesses and creatives to our city. We wish we could bottle his knowledge, patience, history and wisdom as we forge ahead and advocate for increased municipal funding.”

Mitchell, whose background includes government, nonprofit and private sector work, took the economic development position in December 2008 after working as a consultant for Eaton Peabody.

“I believed then, and I still do, Portland is well-positioned to continue to grow the local economy and provide support not only for the city but the state,” he said.

Projects and initiatives that stand out for him include his work to recruit WEX to build its headquarters on Hancock Street and Northeastern University to locate its Roux Institute on the eastern waterfront, he said. He also cited the relocation of the city’s public works department from Hanover Street in Bayside to Canco Road and the redevelopment of the Hanover Street property.

Updating the zoning along West Commercial Street also was important, he said.

“That unlocked the potential for modern seaport infrastructure,” he said.

The zoning paved the way for a new cold storage facility being built next to the International Marine Terminal.

Mitchell said he is also proud of being the co-author of the economic development plan, which the city adopted in 2012.

“The policy direction of that document has been incorporated in the recent (comprehensive plan) for 2030,” he said. “I am proud that the policy direction will continue beyond my tenure.”

One “missed opportunity,” he said, was Federated Companies’ proposal for up to 850 apartments on a former scrap metal yard on Somerset Street. The midtown project faced local opposition and was dialed back. A revised plan calling for 450 housing units, 100 square feet of retail space and an 800-vehicle parking garage was approved in 2015. Construction, however, never started, and in 2019, Federated Companies sued the city, claiming, according to the Press Herald, it “had defaulted on its contractual obligations.”

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