BPS’s Steve Kountz wins the 2023 Bob Stacey Award from the Columbia Corridor Association

News Article
The nonprofit business association honored the bureau’s economic planner for his support and advocacy for the businesses, industries and employees of Portland’s industrial sector.
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Steve Kountz wearing a suit and smiling, holding his award, standing next to a table in the event hall
Steve Kountz holds his Bob Stacey Award at the Columbia Corridor Association luncheon event.

Last month, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s Senior Economic Planner Steve Kountz was honored by the Columbia Corridor Association (CCA) with the Bob Stacey Award at an annual luncheon. The award is given each year to someone who has made a difference to Portland’s industrial business community – but who might not be well known.

Kountz was recognized for his work with three industrial business districts – CCA, Swan Island Business Association and Northwest Industrial Business Association. As a senior economic planner at BPS, Steve researches economic trends and helps develop strategies for equitable economic growth. He is particularly interested in preserving and increasing middle-wage jobs in Portland’s industrial sector.

“Manufacturing and industrial jobs offer well-paying opportunities to people without a four-year degree,” Kountz said. “Those middle-wage jobs are concentrated in Portland’s industrial areas, particularly along the Columbia Corridor. So that’s where I’ve focused a lot of my time and energy.”

As the bureau’s liaison to the business and industrial community, Kountz listens to the issues and concerns of each business. But he gains a deeper understanding of the issues through analysis of economic, employment and development data. Kountz then brings that personal and business perspective to discussions at BPS and the City, which informs policy and code changes.

For example, Kountz recently worked on Portland’s 20-year forecast for employment land, which projects how much land will be needed to accommodate future business, industry, retail, and institutional (i.e., healthcare and education) growth. This is important because it will guide how the City will make room for expected job growth, such as fixing substandard streets or developing new brownfield cleanup incentives.

Kountz has studied the middle-wage job gap in Portland for years, discovering that the Columbia Corridor’s industrial sectors employ more people of color and provide more family-wage jobs than any other sector in the region. Asking what types of jobs reduce racial income disparities, Kountz also found that the region’s industrial businesses in goods production and distribution have the biggest benefit, raising the incomes of workers of color by 20% on average above jobs in the rest of the economy.

At the luncheon ceremony in December, Collier said he tagged along with Steve as he presented his research to other bureaus and organizations. “If you ask those bureaus whether they remember Steve or me, the answer would probably be ‘no.’ But if you ask them if they remember the data, the answer is a resounding yes.

“Our effort to improve equity can sometimes be more talk and less action,” Collier continued. “But not with Steve. He was showing us the pitfalls and a path forward five years before others. And he was doing it with hard data, not hot air.”

Unlike Bob Stacey, Steve Kountz is quiet and unassuming. But like Bob, Steve takes his work seriously, studies the issues and provides solid, reliable data that businesses can use to enhance their operations and support their employees.

About Bob Stacey

A native Oregonian, Bob Stacey influenced Oregon history in his roles at 1000 Friends of Oregon, as Portland’s planning director in the early 1990s, and as a Metro councilor. He worked, collaborated, and hobnobbed with governors and congressmen. And he was a dedicated and effective board member of the Columbia Corridor Association. He died at the age of 72 in 2022.

Upon his death, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer famously said, “Oregon just lost the most important person that most people have never heard of.”

In that spirit, the association created the Bob Stacey Award to “recognize our unsung heroes who work and care beyond the scope of the job.”

Congrats to Steve Kountz – our own quiet hero – for winning this year’s Bob Stacey Award.

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Contact

Eden Dabbs

City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability