Attention on TMT’s Misdeeds Growing

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Weeks after Investors Alerted to Potential Risks Associated with TMT Development, News Breaks Highlighting Record of Irresponsibility 

Park Avenue West Tower’s developer and major tenant, TMT Development, has been drawing attention in Portland, but not in the way it might want.  In late February, investor alerts highlighted risks associated with possible failure to live up to its lending agreements, possible failure to meet requirements of its city covenant, and possible exposure to liability under ORS 658.465.  The attention to TMT comes while an associated entity, Sturgeon Development Partners d/b/a Opportunity Development Partners is seeking financing for major projects in Portland and Salem, Oregon.  This week, TMT’s controversial record of flouting commitments landed it in an exposé in Willamette Week and followup article.

The article reviews TMT’s commitment to hire union janitors and security officers in their downtown properties, and so far, its failure to meet this commitment for janitorial staff. 

“I thought we agreed to fair treatment—and fair wages—for janitors providing services to Park Avenue West, and I’m disappointed we haven’t had a better partner” in Sturgeon’s company, TMT Development, says City Commissioner Nick Fish. “I certainly didn’t expect we’d spin our wheels for this long arguing over the letter and spirit of the deal.” 

TMT may continue to face scrutiny as it places itself on the unpopular side of many trends in the Oregon economy. While millionaires, like TMT development and its owners, build luxury apartment towers and enjoy unprecedented tax breaks, working families who clean the buildings are pushed farther from their jobs while TMT fights against the availability of secure living-wage incomes.  

TMT’s president, Vanessa Sturgeon, has so far courted the spotlight in 2019. Surgeon acted as an informal spokesperson for the Trump Opportunity Zone program in Oregon that will channel a windfall from public coffers into the banks of wealthy investors. The program also has critics: Bloomberg labeled Portland “Tax Breaklandia,” noting that the State of Oregon designated Opportunity Zones to cover much of downtown Portland. The spotlight on TMT may now be a bit too bright, as focus shifts from celebrating tax breaks to the questions about consequences for affected communities. TMT and Sturgeon could be the public face of wealthy building owners standing in the way of low wage, immigrant families of color fighting for stable jobs in downtown Portland.  Janitors and their supporters rallied outside TMT in March and continue to reach out to investors to highlight the consequences of low road contracting, calling on property managers and owners to select verified responsible contractors.  

A report released this month helps quantify the benefit to workers of a union job, the kind of jobs TMT has not provided for janitors in Park Avenue West. The University of Oregon report pins the value of a union to be $4,701 a year. The report further found that women and people of color disproportionately benefit with a union – all union employees do better than non-union workers, but in non-union workplaces, women and people of color fall much farther behind their white male counterparts.  

For a list of responsible contractors, visit RaiseAmericaPDX.org/Responsible