Portland State University students will offer free marketing and business support this fall to downtown businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic.
The Rose City Downtown Collective, a coalition of nearly 300 business leaders who banded together last December to advocate for downtown Portland, is working with Portland State’s business school on the initiative.
Evie Smith, a spokesperson for the collective, said the business school has provided similar support to businesses in the past, but the new initiative will focus specifically on downtown.
The collective anticipates students will have the capacity to work with up to 12 businesses this fall. Businesses interested in participating in the initiative can apply online. Applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The program will connect businesses with either a team of 10 to 12 business students that can provide consulting services or a team of three to five marketing students that can help businesses launch a new product or service. Businesses can also work with Portland State’s student-run advertising agency FIR NW.
“As we work together to bounce back from the devastating effects of COVID, we look forward to new opportunities that integrate our students into the wider Portland community,” said Jacob Suher, assistant professor of marketing at Portland State, in a statement.
The efforts come as downtown Portland tries to recover after more than a year of upheaval.
Foot traffic downtown plummeted last year as office workers transitioned to remote work and tourism dried up due to the pandemic. At the same time, homeless camping in the city core rose sharply. Nightly protests downtown last year led to Portland becoming a national symbol of unrest, and a spike in vandalism caused many downtown businesses to board up their windows.
More people have ventured downtown and tourism has begun to rebound since the state lifted coronavirus restrictions in June, but challenges remain for downtown. Spurring the recovery of downtown is a priority for Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office, which launched five committees early this year with local business leaders and community members to try to come up with proposals to revive Portland.
Portland State University could play a key role in downtown’s recovery this fall as it welcomes back roughly 25,000 students for in-person instruction.