Q&A with Gustavo Gutierrez-Gomez

Executive Director, Downtown Pasco Development Authority

Number of employees you oversee: 6 – four full and 2 part time.

Gustavo Gutierrez-Gomez

Please describe the Downtown Pasco Development Authority and the Main Street program:

The Downtown Pasco Development Authority (DPDA) is a nonprofit that runs with Main Street tax credit money, which means someone buys the tax credit dollars up to $100,000. Main Street is a national program for economic development that cares about heritage and human assets. We have committees that focus on architectural, cultural and human aspects, among others.

We’ve been doing this for about 10 years. We organize the Cinco de Mayo celebration and Fiery Foods Fest. With the pandemic, they’re both virtual. We align with Main Street as a nonprofit, but we also are an incubator and run the Pasco Specialty Kitchen, which helps entrepreneurs start businesses.

How did you land this job?

I was working for the city of Woodburn, Oregon, and met people from Pasco four or five years ago at a national Main Street conference. They talked about Pasco and the changes and its cultural roots. I saw them again at another conference. My contact with Woodburn was going to expire, and I was looking at switching jobs. I saw the opportunity in Pasco, and I applied for the job. I didn’t get it the first time around. I was offered a temporary housing job with state of Oregon. When that ended, I reapplied for the Pasco job, which was still open, in November 2019.

Why should the Tri-Cities care about DPDA and how can they support it?

I think people at the Tri-City and state level care about our location and our mission, which is to promote the economic vitality of downtown. Being such a culturally-specific downtown with 98.5% of businesses being immigrants, and Spanish being the dominant language spoken here, we work to keep the roots and culture alive.

The Pasco Specialty Kitchen is an asset to entrepreneurs. And the Pasco Farmers Market has been going on more than 30 years. It basically is a historic site. People should care about keeping it alive. The city supports us. Donations are always welcome. They keep downtown vibrant.

What is a characteristic leader should possess?

Being an attentive listener is one of the best skills and trying to understand. Be a good listener to your community. Let them lead you to the direction you want to take. It is better to listen than to tell people what to do.

Always delegate and make sure everyone has a chance to lead themselves from time to time.

What strategies are you using to survive the pandemic?

We did lose a lot of businesses in the kitchen. We are down to 17, from 39 or 40. I think they’re just waiting to come back. A lot got Covid-19 relief funding.

DPDA secured and distributed $240,000 for small businesses and through the city we helped with technical assistance. The city allowed people to get up to $30,000. We have awarded almost $900,000 in funding. I believe the strategy we were using is more like an emergency funding.

We are focused on helping by giving technical assistance in opening and developing businesses, graphic design, web pages, creating content for web pages and digital audio and video commercials. We’ve tried to help as much as possible.

If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your industry or field (besides ending the pandemic)?

I would not change anything, even with the pandemic. People who work in nonprofits are the people who have ideals. I wouldn’t change anything. We have plenty of people with ideals. We will still be very strong. The pandemic will go away. Nonprofits will still be around.

The people with ideals will still be around.

What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

The first thing I’m going to tell you, I will ask you to ask yourself if you are in a position of power. If so, are you being a leader or a boss? It’s a lot different. Are you going to use the power to help others, to incentivize people in their careers and professions?

If you’re the boss, are you just interested in cutting costs and making money? If you’re the boss, be the humble leader who listens and who tries to understand where everybody is coming from and make them feel welcome and appreciated. Make them feel that they’re an important part of the team.

Who are your role models and mentors?

There are many, but first is my mother, Maria Carmen Gomez. She is resilient and hard-working. She always had faith that the future would be better. My uncle was chief of police in Mexico, and he let me have my own business, polishing the shoes of police officers, when I was 8.

How do you keep your employees or team members motivated?

We create spaces where everybody can be who they are. We have meetings every week. We huddle in the morning to discuss what we’re working on. We exchange ideas each day. We always have interchange of ideas, even if everyone is working on a different program. We’re always getting together and talking about different programming. That is how we all keep motivated, get together for breakfast or lunch.

How do you measure success in your workplace?

We ask what we have done, where are we going, how are we growing. We have these foundational guess processes. We created specific processes on how to handle paperwork.

When everything is paid and we still have money to pay the salaries and a little extra to pay for professional development.

What is your leadership style?

I’m a humble leader. I’m a leader who listens and lets people participate and make choices. I empower then to take the lead. In the end I make the decisions on how money should be spent, but I let them lead. Each one of them leads their own program.

How do you balance work and family life?

I do tai chi from time to time. I don’t work weekends except for farmers market season. We do not have many benefits, but we have family leave or sick time. Family comes first. Everyone has a schedule where they can spend time with their family.

We always make sure that family comes first. We are working to get insurance for everyone, which they don’t have. I do spend time with my family. I have kids. I go hiking. Personally, I love reading books. I’m an introvert. I have a bunch of books.

What is your best tip to relieve stress?

I do meditate a lot. I do visualizations and yoga and tai chi.

What is your favorite podcast?

Pasconecta. (Pasconecta.com/wp/podcast-pasconecta). They talk about sports, business, current events and more.

Do you have a personal mantra, phrase or quote you like to use?

Being aware of who I am and who other people are and allow them to show themselves in every time that we connect. Allow people to show their identities. Be grateful to everything that life offers me as a Mexican immigrant and as a Mexican American professional.

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