Last week the Mayor presented a progress report on the efforts to date by the City and Portland Development Commission in creating a plan to drive economic development within the Software Industry. It was an informative and well-organized delivery of survey results and findings, reflecting great work by the team that spent significant energy on data gathering and analysis. I left the Portland Software Summit feeling that my time was well spent and that, just as promised by the Mayor, this was a mid-point report reflecting a significant journey ahead to reach the goals of creating jobs and a healthy economy through the software industry; the call to action was very clear: get involved, invest and innovate.
So why the picture of the Airstream? Well, one popular topic of discussion during the post-presentation Q&A reflection had to do with a key data-point of the report on lifestyle: the attributes of community values, culture and social DNA of Oregon and really a celebration of how this makes us unique. A big survey finding to most in attendance was that we value our lifestyle more than we value financial success; and the fear, perhaps already realized, that outside venture capital funding has a tendency to bypass Portland in lieu of more money focused communities. Of course this is not a good thing for a community seeking to up-level its entrepreneurial endeavors that seed the root-bed of disruptive and compelling innovation that is mission critical in the software industry.
I do not disagree with the key points underscoring why Oregonians have this preference for lifestyle first and money second; that Oregon is a community by design that desires cultivating enduring wealth in a measured, purposeful manner and with relative quiet; much more so than the get rich gold-rush mentality found in other locales (looking due south right now). We proudly cultivate our lands with ingenuity, we rely upon trusted community as an essential element to survival and we invest the many, many seasons of hard work needed to produce the best harvests; this is the Oregon frontier legacy. These are qualities that we do indeed celebrate loudly in Oregon each day, they definitely make us unique; and the team delivering the report did an excellent job explaining how these elements and attributes form our community values, culture and social DNA.
Back to that nice $75k Airstream. We love our lifestyle here, and we love the abundant recreation opportunities that are part of Oregon’s geo-scape. We take the time in our lives to pursue those interests that give us good balance; if not, you should. This focus on balance of life, and lifestyle, does not at all mean that we don’t work hard or that we do not value reaping the monetary fruits from our commercial enterprise; far from it.
But…. and this is where we all need to do a better job… there is nothing wrong with championing the cause of being successful, making money and building wealth in the most opportunist fashion. Sometimes it is almost too quite in Portland about being aggressively entrepreneurial and celebrating our wins. Corporations, commercialism and capitalism are the good and needed mechanisms to build healthy economies and create jobs through enterprise; good community-focused business ethics are assumed. The pursuit of these business efforts to become financially successful reflect values that are not mutually exclusive with the community values, culture and DNA the presenters highlighted in their report based on data gleaned from the community survey.
Our well-balanced lifestyles rich in bountiful recreation in a very beautiful geography and community culture require us to be financially successful. We like our toys just like folks do in other places; we like to ensure our families are secure and have promising futures in a healthy, financially thriving community; and these finer things don’t come cheap. They come to those who work very hard and persevere through the risks, set-backs and endless unknowns; typical frontier stuff.
My point today is let us not misstate where our priorities lie, especially when we present our persona-vitae to the outside world. We can compete with the best of the best, we can produce the most innovative, free-market capitalistic and commercially successful production outputs of any economy; we celebrate making money and our peers applaud loudly our success. And at the same time and with equal priority we differentiate ourselves strongly as competitively unique and with definite advantage through our community, culture and our DNA. The action point here is that we should balance our voice in a way that trumpets our financial prowess as much as we sing the praises of community.
Let’s celebrate both. RC