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Video: AARP Community Challenge Grantee Interview About the 'Launch Pod'

A conversation from the 2023 AARP Livable Communities Economic Development Workshop

This session highlighted an AARP Community Challenge grantee’s economic development initiative (called “Launch Pod”) and explored how the project has encouraged local entrepreneurship and activated public spaces.

MODERATOR: Mike Watson is the director of AARP Livable Communities. 

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The presentation transcript (below) was created by an automated transcription tool. Anyone looking to quote or use information from the event is advised to compare the text to the video recording. 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: AARP Community Challenge Grantee Interview

Mike Watson: Next up, we're pleased and delighted to have with us Lloyd Purdy, the Economic Development Director for the City of Tigard, Oregon, who led the City's effort in earning an AARP Community Challenge Grant in 2021. Welcome, Lloyd. We're so excited to have you with us live.

Lloyd Purdy: Happy to be here, Mike, from sunny Oregon.

Mike Watson: Love that. It is not the case here in D. C., so glad, glad you have this on. And I know that you're on location at your project site in Tigard, Oregon, for this interview. So, so glad you're here for that.

Lloyd Purdy: Happy to be here at Universal Plaza in downtown Tigard. It's the home of the LaunchPod.

Mike Watson: That's awesome. I know we're going to learn a little bit more about that in a minute, and on that, I have a few questions to learn a bit about it. So, to start us off, could you tell us why you and the city decided to apply for an AARP Community Challenge Grant a few years ago? What was the challenge that you wanted to solve and how has this project impacted that?

Lloyd Purdy: Sure. Mike, we had the opportunity to bring an innovative project to the community and it's based on something we call the Opportunity Café. In our public library, we have a small café space and we decided instead of leasing that to a big name national chain, we could use that as a business incubator.

We could provide the space to an entrepreneur. Provide them business coaching, provide them reduced rent, and provide them access to all those library customers to start their business. So this is a way to focus on economic mobility and entrepreneurism. That was a success, and I started to look around the city to say, Where can we do this again, and again, and again?

And I've run out of space. And then I realized, we're outside of Portland, Oregon. We have a food cart culture here in this region, in this community. So why don't we remove barriers to starting a business by leveraging that, that cultural asset, which is food carts. So we bought, with the help of the AARP Challenge Grant, two food carts that operate as mobile business incubators, where we run the same program.

We provide business support for entrepreneurs, the coaching they need. We reduce rent, which helps support the financing, and we provide, access to a marketplace. The two carts here in the Launch Pod provide, uh, get access to all the visitors that come to Universal Plaza in downtown Tigard. So, that was the idea that we came to AARP with through the challenge grant, and that's the program we've been able to implement with that funding.

Mike Watson: That's fantastic, and I know that, access to capital is one of those challenges, so you're, it sounds like you're solving that. as well as connecting people to an open marketplace. And it sounds like the impact has been pretty inspiring, frankly, listening to it, and I'm sure for the community as well.

And I know it was inspiring for the people as well as the places. And throughout this workshop. We are talking about that. We're talking about places and people and how they contribute to the economic development of the community. So can you tell us a little bit more about how this effort invests in the places and people in the community and what that means to the residents of Tigard?

Lloyd Purdy: Absolutely. As I mentioned, I'm at Universal Plaza. It's a new urban style park in the suburban community of Tigard. So it doesn't have the ball fields and the jungle gyms and some of the recreation activities that you would see at a traditional park. It's more of an urban format that really well serves neighboring residents, including a lot of apartment residents.

So while we have recreation opportunities at this space. It's a light on amenities, bringing the launch pod program, the food cart operators into this plaza, into this urban park provides that extra amenity that community developers, place makers, people like me and many of us on the listening in today, we know that for a public space to be active, it needs to have amenities and one of the best amenities is food.

A cafe right next door, a cafe across the street. For us, these Launch Pod cards, the one, green one behind me and the one next to me that you can't see on the screen, they provide that amenity to make this place, to help add an asset to Universal Plaza. So this is something our residents in Tigard have asked for, for years.

They want to see more local restaurants, more entrepreneurism in our community, and through the Launch Pod. We're, we're nurturing that, we're cultivating that, we're supporting that. The other way that we're impacting the community is through the people. The entrepreneurs like Jules, Juliana Moseley, who opened up Harvest Moon Experience behind me in this cart.

It's at, in fact, the first Sangria bar in Oregon. And the two other entrepreneurs, the brothers Israel and Alfredo from West Coast Torta, they are transforming their lives. Both of my entrepreneurs in this program are first time business owners, first time entrepreneurs. They have the opportunity here over a, about a two year lease to take risks, to try new things, all with the support of a system that really will keep them from failing too dramatically. They get to experiment and explore. That's investing in people, in entrepreneurs.

Mike Watson: That is really incredible. It sounds like you're helping people get a start and you're helping to grow folks that have already started as well. And I think because of that impact, we've heard through the grapevine that other local governments and municipalities have contacted you to learn more about the feasibility of kind of adopting a similar program.

So, if those folks are listening or if they're not, what advice would you give to other communities that would like to support entrepreneurship in diverse places like you have?

Lloyd Purdy: Yes, entrepreneurship is absolutely about supporting individuals. Uh, it's about focusing on, on people that don't have access to the same resources that all of us do.

So we very much focus on economic mobility, helping people improve their livelihood. We focus on individuals. We focus on supporting people that are willing to take risks, and, and that's what this Launch Pod does, and, and that's part of the, the spirit with which we go into economic development and community building.

You also have to deal, and, and deal with your challenges and, and work with your strengths. We knew we had a new plaza, public park coming in, and so we wanted to leverage that strength. When the city of Boston called me a couple months ago to find out if they could do something like this to improve economic mobility, to improve the lives of up and coming entrepreneurs in the city of Boston. We talked about working with individuals. We talked about the holistic support program.

For instance, here at the Launch Pod, all of my entrepreneurs are working with business coaches from local non-profits. So I had to build that support system, that network of community benefit organizations to support entrepreneurs.

And we do that here with organizations like the SBDC, Livelihood Northwest, Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon. Those are just three of the partners we've brought together to support entrepreneurs just at this launch pod with two carts. It takes, it takes a team. And if you're a city with a small economic development team, you need to build out that team to support entrepreneurs and economic mobility.

Mike Watson: Lloyd, that's fantastic advice. It sounds like it's going to take commitment from the city, commitment from folks who are already in the ecosystem. and non-profit partners and others. And it sounds like y'all have done that so well. This is truly an inspiring project. And I want to thank you so much for taking the time to be here with us, Lloyd, and showing us a little bit of a live demo of what everything's looking like.

And it's great to hear the activity behind you, hear folks walking by, hear the dog barking in the background here and there. Really, really wonderful, amazing work. So thank you again for being with us.

Lloyd Purdy: Happy to talk with you, and good luck everybody in all your work.

Mike Watson: Thanks, Lloyd. And, after hearing that great news from Lloyd and the City of Tigard and the impact of that project, I'm also glad to share some great news for all of you who are thinking about maybe applying for a similar grant next year under the AARP Community Challenge.

So we're going to be opening a new application window in January 2024. You can visit to learn more at that time.

Page published October 2023

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