Leveraging Oregon’s Leadership in the Sports Ecosystem to Boost Workforce Opportunities

By Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association,

This July, the World Athletics Championships come not only to the United States for the first time, but to Oregon.  We are a leader in track and field with Hayward Field consistently hailed as an elite track and field venue, but we are also a global leader in the “sports adjacent.”  In the area forming Eugene to Bend to the greater Portland area, there are over 800 sports apparel companies and thousands of sports related manufacturers, therapists, coaches, semi professional and professional athletic teams, Olympic trials, skiing, outdoor adventure, mountains, rivers, fields, venues, hopes, and dreams.  Where else in the country can you engage in the quality of recreation and athletics, live in the region where those amenities already exist, and make a living at the very activity that brings us joy?

When the World Athletics Championships meet later this month, they bring with them media opportunity from around the globe.  We have a rare opportunity to tell the world that Oregon is much more than Nike, Hayward Field, Portland Thorns, and Trailblazers.  We are a state dedicated to sports and everything that supports those sports.  That is why ORLAs’ Hospitality Foundation (OHF) has partnered with the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) to bring into focus the major impact that sports and recreation have on the economy and workforce of Oregon.  As OHF is digging deep into workforce development for our industry, it seemed logical that we needed a voice at the table to be a part of this important work.

PBA has completed an economic analysis and is in the process of naming what we will eventually promote as a brand for Oregon’s sports related economy, but what good does a bunch of data do except tell us what we already know?  The truth is, not everyone knows, and we are going to tell the world. This is about, creating awareness for existing investment and attraction of additional sports opportunities. We need to engage in legislation at every level of government to get traction for investment in our state and local sports economies. From workforce development to infrastructure, it is time to leverage our leadership in outdoor recreation and sports and and get creative with how we use it to make everything in Oregon more attractive and inclusive.

While we are unsure exactly how the messaging will be employed, we know that the powerful information this provides us would be lost if we don’t use it to leverage into real actionable help for our restaurants and lodging partners in Oregon.  How can we use this information to bring economic relief to workforce development, engage housing initiatives, affect transportation, food security, lift BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and women-run business voices, help with houselessness, mental health, and addiction and recovery services?  Right now we are meeting and talking through how to use this data to best affect the State of Oregon.

Watch for more information on the analysis and branding as we welcome the world into our homes for the World Athletics Championships. Let’s be ready to tell the narrative that Oregon is the leader in sports, outdoor recreation, and the opportunity it provides us all. | Ken Henson, Vice Chair, Oregon Hospitality Foundation

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