Interview with Gerald Baugh

Interview with Gerald Baugh

I'm originally from the Northwest and a University of Washington grad, grew up in Vancouver and then had the opportunity to create an urban center in Vancouver where one did not exist before. I worked with the Portland Development Commission to bring the initiatives that have been the bedrock for what has happened in the tech industry, specifically software. From my perspective, it's a neat opportunity to come back, revisit, look at, and yet look forward to what's going on in and around the region. I currently serve as CEO of Total Digital Entertainment dba TLD3 Entertainment Group which is a publicly traded tech company. It's a startup in the music and entertainment industry in New York.

The company was brought together as a company of minorities. One of the things that we looked at from the beginning was our culture in America influences everything and owns virtually nothing. We wanted to create an opportunity to make something happen for us and do things for our culture. The goal is, every single one of those folks will walk away with a significant economic windfall that they normally wouldn't get due to the way that Tech and America tend to view minorities. We're a full-stack company with a range of hardware as well as software. We have a digital music streaming device, an app that's looking at building a streaming platform where, again, everything is aimed at and toward the minority community. The digital music device is in production. In addition to raising Capital, we’re also looking at making a stock registration statement to then move up to the next larger exchange from the OTC Pink Sheet to the OTCQB.

You played instrumental roles in economic development in both Vancouver and Portland that helped to set the stage for the past 10 years worth of growth in both cities. What are the initiatives that you think had the biggest impact in both cities? What were your top three initiatives?

1. Esther Shortt Redevelopment Plan.
I was hired by the City of Vancouver for redoing and creating an urban center in downtown Vancouver, WA over about a 10-and-a-half-year period of time with $300 million worth of mixed-use projects. In the summer of 2000, we had three cranes up at the same time in downtown Vancouver, and it was then that a lot of the folks that were kind of the naysayers both inside the city as well as out doubting our efforts now believed. The crowning piece of that round of development was the Hilton built by the Downtown Redevelopment Authority of Vancouver. This was Hilton's first lead-certified hotel. Hilton is the operator of it, but it's owned by the Redevelopment Authority and the Vancouver Public Facilities District owns the land. It changed how Hilton looked at public-private partnerships. Travel and Leisure awarded eight awards for tourism throughout the world. The only project in North or South America in 2005 that won an award was that hotel. At the same time we were completing this development Boise Cascade was starting to wind down operations.

They were very quietly asking us what we were thinking and if we would consider planning the waterfront. We did it from what had just been done and wanted to take the momentum that we had already created on the north side of the railroad berm in hopes the opportunity would exist to do something on the south side of the berm.Boise showed great interest in our project. When Boise got close to shutting down the mill and doing a development and disposition agreement with potential developers, we were brought into a meeting, not as the center. We were in a room off to the side and Boise wanted to see our plan. After seeing the finalized the plan and zoning, they sold the property to a local developer group. The development on the waterfront is actually the plan that we laid out as a follow on to what we did with Esther Short. From a size perspective, Esther Short was 27 blocks, (27 acres). The Boise site was 30 acres, very similar in size, and the same area with the railroad cutting through the middle of it.

2. Software initiative as part of the Portland Development Commission economic development plan for job growth in the region using targeted key industries.
Through the information-gathering and feedback process, we were able to establish that the independent software developers and the enterprise developers shared similar values and goals. The survey showed how everyone looked at, though, and operated, mirrored each other all the way through. When we rolled out the numbers, there was no significant difference in any one of the responses from one group to the other.

3. International Air Service Committee
(1995 ish) Portland was an international airport because it had one flight that was going to Canada. That was it. The Committee came up with the idea to take the companies in the region, have them pledge their travel to a given airline, and therefore give the airline a base of customers from the time that they would start service to then have some confidence in coming into a relatively small market. Lufthansa took the first step and they came in, Air Mexicana followed after that, then Delta. So we had International Air Service, now going to Guadalajara, Mexico, Munich, Germany and Tokyo, Japan. The Port of Portland analyst came to me sharing how impressed they were by the expansion. About 30% of the travel pledged on Delta flight to Japan resides in Clark County. The Portland/Vancouver region is the smallest market in the US to have direct air service to Europe and Asia.

That's one of those underpinnings that give that big city feel around what you can do because you can do that. Having that access is similar to many much larger markets than the Portland-Vancouver area. All three of those projects were transformative and all had huge impacts on the region collectively across the City of Vancouver, but also Portland. I love that the Air service committee demonstrated that the City of Vancouver is quite the economic engine within the region in its own right. Contributing to a lot of that international trade.

Every company is a tech company, at least in part. And that's only really increased in subsequent years. And it has, has big implications for things workforce, economic development, and policy. In your experience, what are some of the strengths of the New York City metro region when it comes to attracting and retaining tech startups?

Though with the help of the internet and online presence making connections can be easy. However, addresses and where your company is located still matter. There are six common degrees of separation almost anywhere in the United States. In New York, I think it's two degrees of separation. Here you can say, I want to meet “X” and I have found myself going maybe one, or two people, and all of a sudden that second or maybe third person says, I know somebody who knows them that can get you there. We're at that nexus, that crossroads where a tremendous amount of things intersect.

From New York, Philadelphia is only a two-hour drive, Baltimore is a three-hour drive, and DC's a four-hour drive. In New York, you have government centers, cultural centers financial to entertainment centers in New York all within a very short period. Locating in New York, from our perspective, made a lot of sense. When you think about the west coast, it's a three-hour drive to Seattle, a four-hour drive to Vancouver BC, or 12 hours to get down to San Francisco from Portland. New York calls itself “The tri-state region.” Portland and Vancouver are so busy talking about just Portland, or just Vancouver, you're not thinking about yourself as a region. On the East Coast, The Tri-State region includes the five boroughs of New York, the state of Connecticut, the northern half of New Jersey, and going upstate north of the City about halfway up to Albany.

That region is 20 million people.Look at the Portland/Vancouver region and compare it to the East Coast, it's the smallest region by a large factor. Your ability to go and do things is hampered. In New York, one of the things that happened in 2021, there was over $50 billion of venture capital invested in companies in the New York Metro making it rival Silicon Valley. In Silicon Valley, there are people that are leaving San Francisco and going to New York because of that capital influx. That follows what Mayor Michael Bloomberg started saying, “New York can be a tech hub and rival to Silicon Valley.” After ten years, this is now true. This highlights that there is a role for the public sector. To set the aspirational goal of what we're moving towards collectively.

Cushman Wakefield recently completed a study on emerging tech hubs in the U.S., and the top three were Toronto-Waterloo in Canada, Greater Atlanta, and the Mountain West.

The first two regions boast incredibly diverse talent pools, top-ranked research universities, and strong public-private-academic partnerships designed to foster and attract businesses with high-growth potential and leverage investments from large established companies.

What are some factors that you think the Portland-Vancouver region should focus on to be listed among the next great North American tech hubs?

“ People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” -John C. MaxwellThe population of Oregon & SW Washington is very homogenous and the topic of diversity will come up. You can't just say diversity and equity and inclusion. You have to make an honest effort to do it, and you have to care. Portland tends to want to promote and admire the homegrown folks. To make progress, you must get out of your comfort zone. That means you'll have to actually welcome the stranger, bring them in, and make them a part of the community. We need to care about different people coming in and doing things differently in the industry that we work in, the company that we work in, or the street that we live on. They have to feel like they are seen, they are heard, and they belong.There is a higher education component as well. Washington State University- Vancouver focuses on engineering. I was on the advisory board when WSU Vancouver went to the state legislature and turned from a lower division school to a full four-year school. One of the things that we said was a full four years, but also with an emphasis on engineering.

Mentoring for women and minorities, in particular, is very important in economic development. Take some more seasoned folks and have them sit with some of these new companies that are coming up. Not just visit, but literally sit with them, help them grow, meeting on a weekly basis to go through what it means to be a founder. This includes going through the startup process and helping to go through forming the company, setting it up, looking at what their business strategy is, raising capital, helping them maybe even get to market, and being very active. Intel has brought lots of diversity to the Beaverton area.How do you really help those suppliers in addition to Intel, get other businesses to grow and benefit from being in the region? We need to lobby for the good of all companies in Portland. When driving through downtown Portland, you're looking at your core economic environment, which is one of the keys for you and what helped the overall industry to grow. We need the lobby of Salem and Olympia or the benefit of your members and your region. When Intel was getting ready to go to Washington County for the extension of their incentives, we wrote a letter. We sent it over to our economic development counterparts from the city of Vancouver. Thousands of folks in Clark County went to work at Intel and we wanted to make sure that they still could have a part of this region. Go to Olympia or Salem and bring those folks, on behalf of organizations and companies. It's a recognition of the importance of the policy, the workforce piece, the employees, the company, and the culture at the company. It's a holistic picture.

What's rare in economic development is finding people who not only understand how to get things done in the public sector environment but also understand what's going on and the constraints under which the companies are operating. So I went from walking in not knowing anything about it. I went to Ryan Buchanan, the board president then, and he mentioned I needed to look at these four or five things. A year later, as we got ready to roll out the work that we had done, I went back and met with him and discussed what I had learned. He said, “I was telling you what you needed to do. You're now telling me things that I don't know.” We had over 500 people in there not just Portland proper but also had executives that came in from Hillsboro, from Lake Oswego and felt the need to be part of the region.A lot of people didn't think that we knew what was going on until we pulled it all together. Thompson Morrison ran the analytics around all of it and I was the egoist center. I was the person that ran everything that came through because I didn't own a company, I wasn't an enterprise guy and I wasn't an independent developer. I was distrusted equally until we started laying it out. And they all went, but you, did it really well. We disproved many people that were doubting if it would get done since the government was involved. Afterwards, we had lots of praise and willingness to help.

Whenever you visit this region, do you have a go-to activity or favorite restaurant that always makes it on your itinerary?
I love to drive around and look at the expansion of past projects and see areas of town to see what’s still here and what has moved. I went to the downtown Waterfront in Vancouver recently because that was the first time that I really had the chance to see it up and to work while remembering all of the planning that took place to pull that together. One of my other favorite things is the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival which really kicked off as a tribute to downtown redevelopment.My favorite restaurants in Portland include Cadillac Cafe, Mothers, Harborside, City Grill, and Davis Street Tavern. In Vancouver: Beaches, Roots, and Tommy O's. Of course, I always enjoy attending Blazers Games.

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