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Business is up and employment is increasing in downtown Portland.


But more owners and employees are worried the urban core is losing its livability, largely because of the growing number of people living on the streets.

Those conflicting findings emerged from the newest Downtown Portland Business Census and Survey released by Downtown Clean & Safe, an affiliate of the Portland Business Alliance.

The survey confirms two contradictory trends that have been well documented in recent months — more homeless people are visible downtown, even though the Portland economy is continuing to recover from the Great Recession.

“The ongoing growth in employment and businesses downtown has been great news for the region. We are especially encouraged to see growth concentrated in traded-sector industries like technology and finance, since traded-sector jobs are known to pay a family wage,” says Mark Schlesinger, Clean & Safe board chair and partner and senior property manager at Schlesinger Companies, of the new report.

“Yet it’s troubling to see that while post-recession activity picked up, so did the impact of an increase in unsheltered individuals and people engaging in illegal behaviors, like open drug use, in public spaces," Schlesinger adds.

The survey can be read at cleanandsafepdx.com/assets/2014-business-census.pdf.

Downtown Clean & Safe surveys employers within the I-405/I-5 loop every year to measure both the economic health and public perceptions of downtown. The new survey data was gathered from October 2013 to October 2014.

Major findings include:

• A 6 percent increase in downtown businesses, organizations and governmental entities, bringing the total number up to 4,693.

• A 5 percent increase in the number of employees, bringing the total up to 96,605.

• Particularly strong growth in the management of companies, such as corporate and head offices, finance and insurance and technology sectors.

• A total of 89 percent of respondents reporting that their business is healthy.

But the survey also included negative findings:

• A 7 percent decrease in the amount of people who feel downtown is clean.

• A downward trend in the amount of people who feel downtown is safe.

• 79 percent of respondents said panhandlers and public inebriates had on impact on downtown.

"We continue to work with our downtown nonprofit partners to promote safer, more humane and long-term solutions to homelessness, such as our recent Real Change not Spare Change campaign," says Schlesinger, citing the PBA's partnership with a number of social service providers who work with the homeless. "We look forward to working with city leaders on comprehensive solutions to livability issues to ensure that downtown is friendly to both visitors and businesses.”

The Downtown Clean & Safe District is funded by downtown property owners and managers in the 213-block area. It partners with the Portland Development Commission on employment data provided by the State of Oregon. Other survey data was collected using mailed questionnaires, personal follow-up and block-by-block canvassing to obtain a statistically significant survey sample.

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