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Why Portland Needs a Convention Center Hotel

Monday, September 22, 2014


Photo credit: Ed Schipul on Flickr. Creative Commons License. Image Cropped. 

For the past twenty plus years, there has been talk about the need for Portland to have a Convention Center headquarter hotel.

Lack of political leadership in the past kept us on square one. Voters approved a beautiful multimillion-dollar Convention Center that opened in 1990, that would be the epicenter of many future national meetings, conferences and conventions.

Portland now has a real chance to make this headquarter hotel become a reality, but there is a small group of seven hotels, well-financed, that have launched a campaign to stop the efforts to bring a headquarter hotel to the eastside of the Willamette. Interestingly, they did not object when taxpayer’s dollars were used to build The NINES Hotel, The OHSU Tram or Jeld Wen Field.  

East side jobs and businesses

The proposed hotel would complement not only the Convention Center but also the MODA center which attracts many people from out of town.  The development of the close end east side will spur even more jobs, businesses and visitors to our city.

But opponents want to take the matter to the voters in an effort to keep all of the business in downtown Portland.

Opponents offer nothing other than self-serving interest. The fact that this hotel will be union-built and union-operated will be a plus for Portland’s marketing efforts. Portland has only two union-operated hotels, both downtown. One of them is more historic and not convention-oriented.

We lose some government groups and union conventions precisely because we do not have enough union hotels. There is a reason why government officials - including Presidents -ncan only stay at two hotels in Portland.

If we bulid it . . .

The old saying “if we build it, they will come” rings  true in this case. We no longer have time to be so politically correct that we lose future opportunities. After all, the people that are screaming the loudest are paying their employees the least amount of money while owners fly private jets and spend more time on the golf course.  

We need to be team players and work for the greater good of our entire city, not just for a select few.

I know what I'm talking about. I have been one of the many hard working soldiers selling Portland to out of town associations, organizations and individuals for the past 20-plus years. We know how tough it is to compete when, to speak metaphorically, we are going to a gun fight with a knife.  Spokane, Washington has now become a competitor to Portland and announced a 700-room convention center hotel. And yes, you read it correctly - I said Spokane.    

In the meantime, local opponents want to take this matter to the public for a voter referendum and to throw the baby out with the bath water.  

All the reports from their so-called out of town experts are gibberish. These experts do not live in Portland and their data focuses on recession and dated economic scenarios.  We are, in a way that experts don't always understand, unique.  

So if you happen to see a paid petitioner at the mall, downtown or at your front door wanting you to sign up to kill the headquarter hotel, simply ask them if this project will increase YOUR taxes. 

No cost

Th truth is, this project will NOT cost local taxpayers a single dime. The bonds that are used to pay for a portion of the financing difference are paid back through room taxes that out of town guest will be paying, not you and I. This is not like the situation where we, as taxpayers were left holding the bag on PGE Park and the delinquent debts of The Nines Hotel.  We can no longer allow a small group of individuals and businesses to make a decision for an entire community.

Finally, for those of you that travel to other major cities for conferences, meetings or conventions, have you ever noticed that mostly all of those cities have at least one major hotel within one or two blocks of their convention center? Can Portland area afford to lose a potential  2000 construction jobs, 900 tourism and hospitality jobs and $120 million annually in new customer spending at retailers, restaurants and other hotels – all thanks to people that do not even live here?

Roy Jay is a Spirit of Portland Award Winner and longtime business entrepreneur that has invested nearly 40 years in helping to develop, promote Portland and paying employees livable wages.  Read more on him at WWW.ROYJAY.COM 

Home Page Photo Credit: StuSeeger via Compfight cc


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