On the scene: Economic summit puts focus on uniting the region

How do we ensure technology unites us and provides opportunities rather than disparity?

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In a ballroom filled with local leaders in government and industry one message stood out: technology is rapidly changing and everyone needs to be on board. I attended Greater Portland’s annual Economic Summit Thursday, which was filled with takeaways for business owners looking toward a sustainable future.

Keynote speaker Kian Gohar said societal advances are a double-edged sword. “We’re essentially living in a society where technology is helping us transform scarcity into abundance. And we’re solving a lot of humanity’s great challenges but we still have a lot to solve,” said Gohar, executive director of the Innovation Partnership Program.

Here are just a few takeaways from the summit:

“If we can come together as a community and bring economic development, state government, academia and industry together in an environment that supports innovation and creativity, we can have that exponential growth.”
— Bill Gerry, Global Technology Program Manager – Boeing

“Part of my vision is what we’re doing right now in this room. There’s over 100 different jurisdictions in this room. Everything we do should focus on generating economic prosperity. I’m extra bullish on this region’s economic future. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to do business in this region.”

— Ted Wheeler, Oregon State Treasurer, Portland Mayor-elect

“If you look at the millennial generation, people don’t necessarily have that same pride in taking their Mercedes-Benz and taking someone to the movies. It’s making us call into question what we’re doing with our lives.”
— Nat Parker, CEO moovel North America

“It’s thinking about some of the challenges and drawing on the talents and the needs and the ability to define the problems that exist in our underserved neighborhoods.”
— Jennifer Bradley, Aspen Institute Director

Gohar’s final takeaways:
     1. “The only constant is change and this rate of change is increasing.”
     2. “Standing still equals death. So either disrupt yourself and your business and community or someone else will.”
     3. Competition is no longer just local, it’s all over the world.
     4. “If you’re dependent solely on innovation in your industry … you’re going to lose. The fastest growing platforms in the world are open, like Google and Uber.”

“It’s absolutely imperative that we have conversations like we’re having right now, so we can think about how do we bring everybody on this exponential journey … because those who are left behind will never catch up.”