Business execs set Fly In at Pearson

Investors, corporate leaders will check out business opportunities in area

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor



About a dozen VIPs from around the country and abroad will be feted at a Vancouver dinner later this month, with private pilots flying in to greet them.

Despite the high visibility of the Pearson Field gathering, which will include 200 other guests, the weekend visitors with impressive business credentials will keep a low profile. Their hosts assume that these investors and top-level corporate leaders would prefer anonymity as they check out the metro area’s potential as a place to do business.

The business executive Fly In will take place Sept. 23-25, and the economic development organization Greater Portland Inc. expects a dozen or more top business executives to check out the region’s business opportunities.

Beyond a small number of events such as the Pearson Field dinner, tours and activities will be personalized by local executives, who are acting as hosts to the high-level guests, says Susan Bladholm, the economic development organizations’s marketing vice president. Those committed so far are from the high-tech, software, green construction, solar, and venture capital industries.

They’re coming both from the United States and Asia, Bladholm says.

Ron Arp, a Clark County public affairs consultant also working on the event, says the Fly In is unusual in its ambition. It’s typical to invite business prospects one or two at a time rather than as a group, he says.

“This is a big deal,” says Arp. “There’s not been a lot of active recruiting and hosting along these lines.”

The idea of the Fly In originated from the Land Here, Live Here business promotion campaign launched earlier this year by Clark County economic development organizations, with Arp as an active participant.

That campaign touts local assets of cities as well as the region’s social, cultural, and economic attributes as a place for businesses to land and people to live. It was the double meaning of “Land Here” that sparked the idea for the Fly In event.

Key companies and business leaders have come forward to help with the privately funded event, which has an estimated cost of $88,000, Bladholm says.

The Fly In is gaining donations of time or money from Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines, Vancouver-based Kuni Automotive Group and Lithia Motors, restaurant owner Greg Higgins for a Portland dinner in a private home, and Beaches Restaurant owner Mark Matthias for the Vancouver dinner.

Stimson Lumber is offering its plane for flights to Bandon Dunes Golf Course in southern Oregon, and hotels are providing luxury suites.

“The community is saying, ‘We support business development activities,” Bladholm says.

As for the Pearson event, organizers have recruited at least eight local pilots to fly into the Fort Vancouver field for the evening.

Those planes will be joined by vintage airplanes that will be rolled out of the Pearson Air Museum for a wine and cheese event under airplane wings, Bladholm says.

The VIP guests will be joined by other business leaders and sponsors and, if they’re concerned about secrecy within that invited crowd, they can simply remove their name tags, she says.

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