The City of Oregon City has a robust economy featuring an array of locally owned small businesses, a core of manufacturing, distribution and logistics companies, regional healthcare facilities and a community college. The City’s walkable downtown serves residents and a growing number of visitors. Oregon City is the County Seat for Clackamas County and is an important economic driver for the County. Oregon City’s businesses employed almost 10% (9.7%) of Clackamas County’s workforce.  Oregon City is home to approximately 38,000 people with 1,700 businesses. Although the community has a diversified economy, consisting of a few large employers, Oregon City is primarily a community of small “mom & pop” businesses.  The average size of the employment base of small businesses within Oregon City ranges from 8 to 10 employees.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Oregon City lost 200 small businesses, or approximately 12% of its businesses.  From an economic development point of view, it became important to replace the businesses lost and to continue to grow the city’s small business community. This incentivized the Oregon City Department of Economic Development to establish an entrepreneurial development initiative.

With the support of the Oregon City Commission to use general funds, the Economic Development Department crafted a series of programs to help support small businesses in the community, including startups and emerging small businesses.  The “BIZ POD” program is one of the department’s entrepreneurial development initiatives.

The Biz Pod is an exclusive education program designed to support the growth and development of start-ups and emerging companies in Oregon City. With a focus on peer-to-peer support as well as coaching from experienced experts, it offers a unique and highly effective approach to business education. The program consists of small intimate cohorts of just six participants called PODs, ensuring a balance of individual attention and group collaboration.

The goals of the BIZ POD Program are:

  • to provide the practical tools and knowledge to help small and emerging businesses be more resilient;
  • to offer a highly interactive learning experience for the participants of BIZ POD;
  • to provide an innovative perspective on business growth and development; and
  • to help build camaraderie among program participants thus strengthening ongoing peer-to-peer relationships.

Applicants to the BIZ POD were required to fill out an admission application and undergo an extensive interview process.  Applicants who met the following criteria were invited to apply:

  • must be an Oregon City-based business enterprise;
  • startups and emerging businesses that have been in operation for 3 years or less in Oregon city;
  • must have a defined product, service or prototype;
  • demonstrate a market need for the product or service;
  • able to commit to the time required to complete the course; and
  • must be in good legal standing with all federal, state, and local laws/ordinances.

As part of the interview process, applicants were required to demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • a strong drive to be a business owner;
  • an entrepreneurial aptitude to succeed in business;
  • access to resources to start the enterprise or resources to continue business operations;
  • experience in being a manager, supervisor, or team leader in an organization or project; and
  • if applicable, support from spouse or partner of the business venture.

The seven-week program focused on topics such as technology data applications, logistical business operations and process flow, hiring best practices, the use of financial data to make informed business decisions, and guerilla marketing techniques, just to name a few. Curriculum topics were presented by paid experienced professionals who also provided one-on-one support in their subject area of expertise.

Although the Oregon City Economic Development Department had a good initial framework to build on, it needed to hire a consultant to further build-out the program, i.e., identify instructors and to help custom design the courses. It has always been the intention of the department to establish public/private partnerships with top notch instructors from the private and public sectors, who are current in their field of expertise. Identifying such individuals and getting them to participate as instructors was a strong challenge in that most of them did not have experience with teaching and they were initially uncertain as to whether they wanted to do it. The consultant worked with each potential instructor to design the course and to provide tools to help with techniques in teaching.

Another challenge was narrowing down the applicant pool. Twenty-six applications were received in April, 2023; only six were selected. One-on-one interviews helped to better understand the applicants and the likelihood of their success in completing the course.  The POD cohort started on May 6, 2023, and concluded on July 22, 2023.

To get the word out about BIZ POD, the department relied on the Oregon City Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Oregon City Association (A Main Street Program) as well as the City’s Communications Department.

BIZ POD included 18 hours of class instruction (six 3-hour classes), nine hours of consulting time with professional advisors (six 90-minute sessions with each program participant), and six hours of facilitated peer-to-peer business support during which each program participant presented ideas, challenges, and opportunities to their cohort colleagues for feedback. Participants completed some work outside of class time.

This initiative met the department’s expectations. The Biz Pod’s curriculum provided program participants with a fresh, innovative, and real-life perspective on operating a business. This program was designed to be highly interactive, leveraging the collective knowledge and experience of participants to deliver maximum impact. With a strong emphasis on practical applications, participants gained a deep understanding of how to drive growth and success for their respective businesses.

All six program participants graduated from the program and were awarded $3,000 to use in their business operations as they saw fit. Business owners who completed the program were called achievers. A special “achievement ceremony” was held on July 22, 2023.

Furthermore, the achievers receive continued mentoring services from one or more of the program advisors of their choice. Mentoring services will cease in October 2023. A program brochure and other information is included with this submittal.

We congratulate the following BIZ POD Achievers:

Jessica Macklin, Owner of Northwest Treatment

Kenny Baker, Owner of Sh’mallow

Jacob Kuhn, Owner of Traveling Wine Cart

Crystal Pyatt, Owner of Sweet Masterpiece

Joanna Strahm, Owner of Small Baking Co.

Joe Henney, Owner of Henney Design

For more information and to view additional materials, please see the adjacent links: 


James Graham, CEcD

Economic Development Manager

Oregon City Economic Development Department