As Portland rebuilds after the pandemic, the city faces challenges and opportunities at every turn. On January 25, the Portland Business Journal gathered 200 people for its first-ever Advancing Portland Growth Summit to discuss these issues and brainstorm solutions.
Jonathan McGuire, CPA, a partner at Aldrich Advisors, facilitated one of the roundtable discussions. In this Q+A, Jonathan shares takeaways on downtown recovery, fees and taxes, and small business support.
Q: What were the key discussions regarding downtown revitalization?
A: We discussed strategies to increase foot traffic downtown, emphasizing the need for collaboration between government and businesses. We addressed homelessness and substance abuse, recognizing the urgency for interim shelters that give people a place to recover.
However, the mental health system is massively underfunded. We lack the professionals we need to help people get better. Some attendees said more police was the answer. Others advocated for strengthening the mental health community. Despite these differences, we all recognize that what we have now is not good.
To help pay for mental health services, we could possibly redirect some funds from the Oregon Metro’s supportive housing services tax.
Q: How do tax burdens impact businesses in Portland? What solutions were proposed?
A: Taxation is a significant concern. Portland ranks second only to New York City as the highest-taxed metro in the nation. Our small businesses especially feel the weight of this heavy tax burden.
We agreed taxes are fine—if the value of those taxes is clear, such as evidence of a tax-supported service in action. For example, some people feel Multnomah County’s Preschool for All Personal Income Tax lacks visibility. Taxpayers are unsure how the county collects or spends these funds.
Audits at the local level can increase transparency into how taxpayer dollars are allocated. They can also help us understand the true cost of a program or service. If people know where their money is going, they are more willing to pay taxes to fund a service.
Q: What initiatives were proposed to support small businesses in Portland?
A: This was the most interesting question, at least at our table. We acknowledged how difficult it is for businesses to communicate with the city and for law enforcement to do their job. These are systemic issues that lead to conflict.
But then we discussed how to foster collaboration between businesses and the city, and the city and law enforcement. We must work to soften hearts and instill compassion—let’s try to understand we are all facing the same challenges and work through them together.
We all care about our people’s well-being and our economy’s success. When we realize this truth, we can sit down with our neighbors and reach a common ground.
Understandably, this is easier said than done. But for the sake of Portland’s future, we must try.
Meet the Expert
Partner - Real Estate
Jonathan McGuire, CPA
Aldrich CPAs + Advisors LLP
Jonathan McGuire has over ten years of experience providing strategic tax planning and compliance expertise to private middle-market clients. He has a deep focus as a real estate accountant, working with investors, developers, realtors, property managers, and other professional service providers in real estate. He works with a wide range of property types ranging from... Read more Jonathan McGuire, CPA
- Real estate
- Partnership taxation
- Tax planning and compliance
- Certified Public Accountant
- Repair regulations
- Qualified Opportunity Zones
- Qualified Opportunity Funds