Thoughts on Greenlight Greater Portland

Thanks to the generosity of Rick Turoczy, I recently attended the Greenlight Greater Portland luncheon.

I waited a little while before posting my thoughts because I wanted to read through the materials to get a better sense of what the organization was about before commenting. I went into the luncheon knowing nothing about the organization.

Thankfully my delay gave me a chance to read some of the thoughts from David Abramowski about how Greenlight Greater Portland is no place for startups.

Ostensibly I was at the event to provide a startup perspective. However, the luncheon didn’t really touch on that so David’s write up will have to suffice if you are interested in that perspective.

Instead, I want to talk about two things:

  • What a great speaker Tom Szaky of Terracycle was. What an exceptional story.
  • What a shame it is that the best part of the luncheon had to be imported from New Jersey.

First, Terracycle is an amazing and inspiring story. Even if Terracycle wasn’t making a difference by dealing with waste, the business story and innovation alone would be noteworthy.

If you ever have a chance to see Tom speak, do it!

Unfortunately, Tom’s speech was preceded by two different individuals from Greenlight Greater Portland who read off scripts, droned on, and bored the audience.

One of the speakers tried to engage the audience in a gimmick where the audience would have a single clap after each talking point. This was attempted at the same time our food was served creating a dilemna for the audience between eating our meal and acknowledging the speakers pleas for single claps.

(Blah blah. Put down fork. Single clap. Pick up fork. Eat quickly. Put down fork. Single clap. Repeat.)

I normally avoid criticizing public speaking. It takes a lot to get on stage and not everyone was fortunate enough to have had a traumatic high school experience that eliminated the fear of public speaking.

However, in this case it detracted from what otherwise is really interesting information. The data gathered by Greenlight Greater Portland in their 2009 Greater Portland Prosperity Index is great stuff.

The printed version of the report is well designed, easy to read, and full of interesting notes on why Portland is well positioned for growth.

(You can also download the report from the Greenlight Greater Portland web site, but you apparently need to register to download it and the registration form does not say why they require you to register nor why they need your email. Consequently, I’m not linking to it.)

As far as the policies are concerned, they seem to be basing their work on policy and programs that worked in Austin. They sound reasonable enough, but consistent with what David wrote, I doubt it will have any direct impact on our business. If they succeed, then I’m sure the overall economic prosperity will help our business.

I did have a good time at the event and was inspired by the end. It’s just unfortunate that the promotion of what makes Portland special wasn’t inspirational. In fact, it was pretty boring. And that part that was inspirational came from New Jersey of all places.

Thanks again to Rick for the invitation and to my table mates for the good conversation. And despite my comments about the presentations during the luncheon, I wish Greenlight Greater Portland tremendous success.