Posted at 12:30 PM
United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker made the 12th stop of her nationwide listening tour in Portland, Oregon today. She began her day with a tour of Nike's Sports Research Lab and Innovation Kitchen, where the company is working on development of a wide-range of new products. Her tour was followed by a roundtable discussion with area business leaders, including representatives from Colombia Sportswear, Portland General Electric and Colombia Green Technologies. During this discussion, the executives expressed the importance of free trade agreements to the sucess of their businesses. They emphasized that improvements to the educational system are needed to better equip youth with skills to succeed in the workforce, and they talked about the many ways their companies are innovating to compete in the global economy.
Next, Secretary Pritzker visited the United Bicycle Institute. It is the bicycle industry’s leading technical school offering courses in repair, frame building, and mechanic certification for technicians. UBI is the type of specialized training institute that produces a steady supply of workers who are prepared for employment in the city's fast-growing bicycle industry, and it encourages the type of innovation and entrepreneurship that America needs to stay competitive in the 21st century.
UBI has two facilities, the main facility in Ashland, Oregon and the Portland facility, which includes a 3,000 square foot mechanics classroom and a 2,400 square foot frame building shop. Since opening in 1981, UBI has educated nearly 20,000 students, many of whom have gone on to careers in the bicycle industry. Secretary Pritzker toured UBI with their president, Ron Stuphin, and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, and then participated in a roundtable discussion with business leaders in the bicycle industry.
Following her trip to Portland, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Missoula, Montana to visit a growing small business called Liquid Planet, which is a mix of a coffeehouse, bakery and beverage market. Since it started in 2003, Liquid Planet has grown to more than 40 employees, expanded its sales annually, and started exporting during its second year of operation. Liquid Planet Holdings has developed four distinct multi-million dollar divisions of the company: retail stores and franchising, e-commerce via LiquidPlanet.com, Liquid Planet Brands and the design and manufacturing arm of Planetary Designs. In 10 years, the company has launched more than 100 products, some of which are distributed nationally by retailers including the Container Store, Peete's Coffee, SYSCO Foods, Crate and Barrel, Williams Sonoma, REI and others. After visiting with Liquid Planet CEO Scott Billadeau and Missoula Mayor John Engen at the coffeehouse, Secretary Pritzker held a roundtable discussion with area business leaders and U.S. Senator John Tester.
Missoula was the final stop on Secretary Pritzker’s nationwide listening tour. She has been meeting with businesses, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and Department of Commerce employees. In these discussions, Secretary Pritzker has heard about their priorities, concerns and ideas on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.