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West Linn consults local businesses in economic development efforts


Polar Systems urges help in relocation process

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - City Councilor Thomas Frank, left, recently met with Polar Systems President Tim Tragesser.In early 2013, West Linn’s City Council identified economic development as a priority, directing staff to focus on creating a friendlier and more vibrant business environment in the city. A primary council goal is to modify codes and processes to remove regulatory and financial barriers and incentivize positive community economic efforts. Chris Kerr, West Linn’s economic development director, leads this effort and is assisted by the Economic Development Committee, a volunteer citizen group.

As part of our work to remove regulatory and financial barriers for businesses, the city is engaging directly with local business owners to identify the difficulties encountered by those seeking to navigate city development codes and processes. Councilor Thomas Frank and Chris Kerr began conducting outreach visits to local businesses to learn about their experiences. This series will highlight these visits with local business owners.

On April 29, Councilor Thomas Frank and Chris Kerr met with Polar Systems President Tim Tragesser and Consultant Shane Boyle, who is also the virtual chief information officer for the city. The company opened in 1981 in Southeast Portland but relocated to West Linn in 2010.

Polar Systems started out using a hardware sales model, building PCs and servers, for example, but through the years has evolved into a service-based business. Now operating under the managed services model, Polar Systems performs as outsourced IT and provides everything from basic help desk services to strategic IT consulting.

The company also now owns the West Linn building it occupies and intends to remain there, having recognized the high quality of life factors like low crime, family-friendly character, great schools and low taxes that make the city appealing to businesses.

Currently the company employs 23 full-time employees, but by the end of the year expects the staff to increase to about 27. The typical client served by Polar Systems is local (not a chain), offers services of a professional nature and employs a staff of 10 or more.

According to Tragesser, choosing West Linn as a relocation destination, rather than staying in Southeast Portland, achieved two major goals. First, West Linn offers a more desirable image and allowed the company to feel comfortable inviting clients to the office, and, second, West Linn is geographically attractive due to its centralized location and transportation access.

Polar Systems has the opportunity to draw employees from West Linn and surrounding areas and easily service clients in the area. Tragesser also mentioned relief at moving away from stringent and expensive Multnomah County requirements. The company did suggest the city could focus on making relocations as easy as possible for businesses and perhaps offer incentives. Polar Systems also expressed support for the possibility of resources such as a business mentorship program or a welcoming committee that would provide assistance early on in the relocation process.

These outreach visits and the conversations they generate are valuable tools for the city’s economic development department. If you operate a business in West Linn and have ideas to share about the city council’s goal to reduce regulatory and financial barriers, visit westlinnideas.com to take an online survey.

Find out more about Polar Systems at polarsystems.com.

— Ashley Graff is the economic development/public affairs intern for the city of West Linn