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Mayor Brennan Aims for Portland to be "Known for Innovation and Enterprise."

Our city is already well-regarded for our arts and cultural institutions and our spectacular natural environment. But quality of life requires more than that — our city also needs to be a place where people can earn a comfortable living and enjoy the opportunities of a growing economy.

In an op-ed published yesterday in the Portland Press Herald, Mayor Michael Brennan wrote about his work to include our workers and educational institutions among the qualities for which Portland is a renowned place to live. "Portland will become known not only for its culture, waterfront and neighborhoods," he wrote. "We will also become known for innovation and enterprise."

With that goal in mind, the Mayor is bringing research institutions, educators, and business leaders together in a new joint project: "Growing Portland: The Education, Research and Business Collaborative."

This afternoon, I spoke with Mayor Brennan on the phone to find out more about the Collaborative and what it hopes to achieve.

LWP: What you said about making Portland a renowned place to work and start a business — not just a great place to live or take a vacation — is something we try to talk about a lot at Creative Portland as well [see our December 2011 post, "Quality of Life Requires A Quantity of Opportunity"].

Mayor Brennan: "It's not only about the "quality of place," but being a place that people can have professional opportunities, advance themselves education and professional development. We need to let smart people know that they don't have to be in New York or LA or Chicago to avail themselves of a top-notch university system, or to create a business that has an national — or global — impact."

LWP: What, exactly, would be the nature of this collaboration? Is it a loose, informal network, or something more formal and structured?

Mayor Brennan: "What I'll be doing is meeting with business leaders to talk about this idea, and what form it might take. I've already had an opportunity to talk with our local R&D and higher education institutions. We'll probably have a stakeholders meeting sometime in November, and try to secure financing early next year."

LWP: Do you have a vision of your own of what the Collaborative would do?

Mayor Brennan: "Well, I'd like to see entrepreneurs partner with the University of New England (UNE), the University of Southern Maine, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), or Maine Medical Center  — all these great research institutions we have here — to create new businesses and opportunities and jobs. To take just one example, when you look at Apothecary by Design, they have benefited from having a pipeline of trained workers from UNE's pharmacy school. When the dentistry school [also at UNE] gets completed, there will be new spinoff opportunities. Maine Medical Center and GMRI are doing cutting edge research, we need to take that work and connect it with the private sector, and with workforce development.

"I constantly have people who tell me 'I really like it here, but I can't find a job." Then I go meet with a business, and they tell me, "we're doing well, but we can't find new, skilled workers that we need to expand.' So I want to narrow that gap."

We'll be sure to post follow-up stories on this as the Collaborative's work progresses. Stay tuned!

Image: a student and patient at UNE's College of Pharmacy. Courtesy of UNE.

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