Downtime with the executive director of Greater Portland Inc.

Janet LaBar, Executive director, Greater Portland Inc.

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0415-downtime01 500pxwWhat I’m reading

Aside from children’s books, I’m unable to fit reading for enjoyment into my schedule these days. I try to stay current on news, economic development trends and metro competitiveness through Twitter and online news sites.


I am super dependent on my iPhone and MacBook air. I recently reinstalled the Uber app, which I had from my time in Phoenix and had deleted when I moved to Portland. GPI has an app for Apple and Droid users, and we use this in our communications outreach to investors and local partners, as well as a marketing tool.

What I’m watching

The last best movie I saw in a theater was Inception, before our oldest daughter was born. I’m well versed in Disney movies.

Last vacation

Phoenix in October for a wedding for a friend, and it was sans children, so that’s always exciting. I have three kids, so a shower is a vacation for me. [LaBar relocated to Portland from Phoenix eight months ago.]

Family time

Reading books together and being outside soaking up all the green!

Off hours

“I really love to cook, although yoga is a very close second.”

Business role model

My former boss Barry Broome — who is now leading Sacramento’s economic development efforts — was a powerful force in my life for the last decade. He always thinks in big pictures, demands excellence and isn’t afraid to go against the grain. He ran a school of hard knocks at GPEC [Greater Phoenix Economic Council], and it’s what prepared me for my job as president and CEO of GPI.

What motivates you to come to work every day?

Self-sufficiency starts with a job. Knowing that I can impact a person’s life through a job — it lights a fire in me.

Advice for young people entering the industry

Don’t wait for someone to show you the ropes. Proactively engage people who can help you understand and navigate the new model of economic development.

Where would you like to see the organization in five years?

Impactful and effective in delivering jobs and investment to our communities. In terms of regional economic development organizations across the country, GPI is relatively new to the game. We have a lot of growing to do, and I’m trying to stretch the organization at the same time. We have to deliver on our main mission of marketing the region and business attraction, and I want to grow a sophisticated competitiveness-research competency in the shop. We’ll be flying the plane while building it.

What Portland can learn from Phoenix

There is a collaboration in Phoenix that happens pretty automatically, with execution following shortly thereafter. Here there is a willingness to collaborate with good intentions, but — at least in the eight months I’ve been here — the execution is on the slower side. In other words, we like to admire the problem a lot. We like to make a lot of plans here. 

Jacob Palmer is the digital news editor of Oregon Business.