Rep. Karin Power Will Run Business for a Better Portland

The local business organization brings on the outgoing state legislator as it expands its nonprofit status.

Oregon state Rep. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie), who earlier this year announced her departure from the Legislature over low pay, has been named interim executive director of Business for a Better Portland.

The nonprofit occupies an interesting position in civic life. It represents more than 400 Portland-area businesses, but is distinctly to the left of the Portland Business Alliance, the local chamber of commerce. That means Business for a Better Portland, also known as BBPDX, campaigns for economic aid for small retailers but also advocates for affordable housing, bike lanes and public transit.

Power, too, is a noteworthy progressive figure. She announced her departure from the Oregon House this spring—despite a rapid rise that saw her chair the House Committee on Early Childhood and co-chair the House Judiciary Committee. She and two colleagues blamed their decision not to seek reelection on the failure of a bill that would have doubled lawmakers’ pay and provided extra compensation for child care. Her term ends in January.

Board chair Hope Beraka tells WW that Power will serve as interim director while overseeing the search for a new permanent executive director, a process that is expected to take between six and eight months. Power will serve as the interim executive director in conjunction with Ashley Henry through the summer until Henry’s departure in September.

According to a press release, Business for a Better Portland’s board of directors voted June 21 to appoint Power as interim director. BBPDX is a 501(c)(6) organization where membership funds are the sole source of financial support. But it recently announced the formation of Friends of BBPDX, a 501(c)(3) that can apply for grants, opening up opportunities for individuals and charitable and civic organizations to participate in and support the organization’s advocacy projects.

The aim of this reorganization, Beraka says, is to “address the concerns of interested businesses who don’t have membership dollars to spend.” She noted that many businesses are in financial tough spots due to the pandemic and the national economic downturn but are still voicing interest in being involved.

Correction: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the distinction between Business for a Better Portland and Friends of BBPDX.