We sure have interviewed some interesting people for this column and Ryan Flynn is no exception. A native Oregonian, born and raised in Corvallis, Ryan now spends his time representing Portland’s interests in concert with our sister city, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Although born in Corvallis, Ryan attended Willamette University in Salem before moving on to become Pacific Power’s General Counsel. After some time in that position, Ryan added a decidedly international flair to the work he does, which involves focusing on the Portland/Utrecht relationship.
“There is a friendship city relationship between Portland and Utrecht, which means that we spend a lot of time engaging with the cities, state and provincial governments, maker organizations and other community focused business groups,” he says.
Portland’s relationship with Utrecht was born out of a number of synergies between the cities, as Ryan explains.
“Portland and Utrecht formally became friendship cities in 2013,” he says, “and in the years leading up to that, government officials had visited each other’s cities on unrelated matters and discovered the similarities. Specifically, they noticed the biking culture, craft beer, the weather and the politics. Also, the direct flight between Portland and Amsterdam means that there was a logistical connection.”
These efforts began with an entrepreneurial spirit, much the same way so many collaborative relationships like this begin.
“I started my own business with two Dutch guys in an effort to partner with entrepreneurs and small businesses to bring Dutch products to Portland and Portland products to The Netherlands,” he explains.
He also operates a political consulting firm based out of Washington D.C. that focuses on attracting Dutch companies looking for American political advice.
“There is a direct connection between the work we do in Holland and life in Portland,” he says. “Our company is focused on helping small companies with terrific products or brands grow into new markets.”
Although his focus has been on the city relationship and business end, he has also become engaged in World War II history and specifically in the plight of Dutch Jews during that time.
“I also really enjoy exercising and learning all I can about Dutch culture,” he says.
After spending so much time in The Netherlands, Ryan must certainly have some thoughts on how the Dutch do things when compared with their friends across the pond.
“I think the Dutch have – after many centuries of trial and error – a great sense of what’s important and valued. They are very invested in their family and friends and their work or profession is designed around that focus. This translates to the feel of their cities, which are aimed at making life convenient and accessible, whether through the biking culture, close living quarters, or other unique aspects of Dutch society,” he explains.
All of this sounds somewhat familiar, which is highlighted in Ryan’s final statement.
“It’s true when people ask me ‘What’s Holland like?’ I respond, ‘Bikes and smiles.’”
With so much in common, it’s no wonder Utrecht and Portland have forged such a strong bond, and having a PDX Person like Ryan Flynn there to enhance that relationship means only good things for both cities.
William Bessette – PDX People Contributor
William Bessette is a journalist and freelance writer who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over thirteen years. When he’s not profiling Portland-area restaurants and residents, you can find him reporting on national and international travel and eco-tourism through his travel brand, Floppy Hat Adventures.