Why you should be optimistic about Portland’s future

It could be worse

We think we have it bad here in Portland, but many cities have it much worse. According to this BLS report, Portland clocks in at 269/369 in employment rates – ahead of struggling cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Not to mention economically crippled cities Detroit and Flint.

Inventive City

According to the Wall Street Journal, Portland ranks 13th in number of patents filed, trailing Silicon Valley but beating Seattle and New York. Why is this important? As the article says “New patents often lead to the creation of new companies, which in turn mean more jobs.” Whatever your position on patents and intellectual property, having a large number of inventors in town bodes well.

Renewable Energy Leadership

The announcement that wind turbine manufacturer Vestas is expanding their North American head quarters in Portland was overshadowed by gloomy layoff announcements by OHSU. That, combined with the fact that the Pacific Northwest has a clean power surplus paint a bright picture for Portland’s future in the “green economy.”

Portland’s also been ranking as one of the cities best prepared for Peak Oil.

Creative economy

I’ve talked off and on here about Richard Florida and his creative economy ideas (the patent thing plays into this as well). Portland’s home to apparel heavy-weights like Nike and Columbia (and is the regional headquarters for Addidas) and start-ups like Nau and Ryz.

We also just saw the release of Coraline from Portland animation studio Laika, and the release of Hellboy 2 based on the Milwaulkie, OR based Dark Horse Comics series. Portland is also home to Top Shelf Productions, publishers of Alan Moore‘s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell comics, and Oni Press.

Portland’s also become a hub for marketing and design companies, most notably Wieden+Kennedy.

Intel upgrading during the recession

Intel, the areas largest employer, is closing some locations in Hillsboro. But they’re also investing in upgrading other local plants. Intel bet on their higher end processors, missing the better opportunity in lower end (but more innovative) processors for netbooks. Intel is investing in their future during the recession, preparing to produce more chips for netbooks and smartphones.


Incidentally, none of this depends on government stimulus spending, though that certainly won’t hurt the green energy part. Portland is a strong position ecologically – we’re able to subsist on a comparably low amount of oil, and are positioned within a region producing an excess of electricity. We also have a wealth of visionary talent, complemented with the resources to design, manufacture, and market their creations. Most importantly: we don’t have all our economic eggs in one basket. Things are tough right now, but there are few places in a better position for the future.


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