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Portland: Economy


Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Early in its history, Portland's economy was based on the Columbia and Willamette rivers and their access to the Pacific Ocean. The town was a supply hub for area farming communities and a regional shipping center. The deep, fresh-water port helped the city grow into an important part of the growing lumber industry, and a number of manufacturing concerns settled there because of the ease of transportation.

Today, Portland is the third largest export tonnage port on the West Coast, with import and export shipments of $11.8 billion in 2003. Easy access to the north/south and east/west interstate freeway system, international air service, and both west coast intercontinental railroads make Portland an important distribution center.

Portland enjoys a long history of association with high-technology industries, beginning with Tektronix in 1946. There are now more than 1,200 technology companies currently operating in Portland. In 2004, Portland's largest employer was microcomputer components manufacturer Intel Corporation. Well-established support industries and farsighted commercial planning continue to draw electronics, computer, and other high-technology companies to the area.

Items and goods produced: electronics, machinery, food products, transportation equipment

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

World Trade Center Portland assists businesses involved in international trade. Business in Portland allows area businesses to access valuable information to help them succeed, including site location assistance, store-front improvement grants, contract opportunities, and economic and demographic data. The Port of Portland, working with other local and state departments, offers a variety of businesses development and incentive programs, including a Small Business Development Program, a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, and a Mentor Program. The Portland Development Commission administers a variety of programs to assist new, existing, and expanding businesses, such as the new Economic Opportunity Fund and the Enterprise Zone, E-Commerce Zone, Storefront Improvement Program, Quality Jobs Program, Employee Investment Program, and other assistance programs.

State programs

Among the incentives available to businesses in Portland are several financial programs offered at the state level, together with tax incentives, new construction exemptions, and tax credits. These include the Brownfield Redevelopment Fund, Business Development Fund, Capital Access Program, Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund, and several others. The State's Department of Energy administers a Small Scale Energy Loan, which offers low-interest loans to businesses that save energy or produce energy from renewable resources.

Job training programs

The state of Oregon administers an educational program, the first in the nation, that establishes a statewide apprenticeship program and allows students to choose between job training or a college preparatory program after the tenth grade. The state's JOBS Plus program allows employers who hire a JOBS Plus-eligible worker to receive benefits that include reimbursements, the opportunity to train and evaluate the worker during the contract period, and the opportunity to treat the employee as a temporary employee.

Worksystems, Inc., funds providers of career placement and training services. A network of One Stop Centers offers job-seekers assistance with their career planning and job search activities. Due to an increase in the non-native English speaking population, services are also provided in Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

Development Projects

In 1999 the North Macadam Urban Renewal Plan was adopted by the City Council. The plan seeks to develop vacant and underdeveloped land in the North Macadam area. Technical, environmental, and transportation difficulties had prevented previous efforts to develop the land. Redevelopment efforts have focused on providing transportation connections, space for housing and businesses, and greenway and open space connections. In 2005, development efforts were still ongoing.

In 2004 the Portland Development Commission, Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission, and Portland Oregon Visitors Association began to solicit proposals from vendors to construct a Headquarters Hotel adjacent to the Oregon Convention Center. It is hoped that the hotel, when completed in 2008, will attract larger conventions and trade shows to the Convention Center, add jobs to the Portland workforce, and increase tax revenues.

In 2005 construction began to make improvements on NW Third and Fourth Avenues between Burnside and Glisan Streets, which encompasses the Old Town/Chinatown area. The project is a partnership between the Portland Development Commission and the Portland Office of Transportation. The $5.35 million project will include improvements to streets and sidewalks, installation of trees and streetlights, and public art.

Economic Development Information: Portland Business Alliance, 520 SW Yamhill Street, Portland, OR 97204; telephone (503)224-8684; fax (503)323-9186; email info @portlandalliance.com

Commercial Shipping

Portland's comprehensive transportation system comprises ocean shipping, transcontinental railways and highways, river barging, and a major international airport. The shipping industry is keyed to a lifeline of ship, rail, air, and truck service. Both West Coast transcontinental railroads and 110 trucking lines provide shippers with options for moving cargo. At the Port of Portland's five marine terminals, container ships, grain ships, bulk and breakbulk carriers, and auto carriers work around the clock. The Port of Portland leads the nation in wheat exports and is ranked fourth in the nation for auto imports. In addition, barges ply the Columbia/Snake river system, the second largest waterway in the nation, feeding the Port's Terminal 6 from as far upriver as Lewiston, Idaho, more than 300 river miles away. Foreign Trade Zone #45, administered by the Port of Portland, provides an additional incentive for international trade activity.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

The work force in Portland is well-educated and very stable. The job turnover rate is low and productivity is high, compared to other metropolitan areas. The unemployment rate has remained below the national average for several years.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 946,100

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 55,000

manufacturing: 119,900

trade, transportation and utilities: 193,500

information: 22,500

financial activities: 65,600

professional and business services: 121,200

educational and health services: 115,300

leisure and hospitality: 87,599

other services: 34,600

government: 130,900

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $15.84

Unemployment rate: 6.6% (January 2005)

Portland: Economy

Portland: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
Intel Corporation 14,890
Providence Health System 13,496
Oregon Health and Science University 11,400
Fred Meyer Stores 10,500
Legacy Health System 7,972
Kaiser Foundation 6,731
Safeway Inc. 6,000
NIKE Inc. 5,742
Albertson's Food Centers 5,600
U.S. Bank 4,138

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding key cost of living factors for the Portland area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $292,952

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 113.2 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: Ranges from 5.0% to 9.0%

State sales tax rate: None

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: None

Property tax rate: ranges from $14.00 to $20.30 per $1,000 assessed value (Multnomah County, 2004–2005)

Economic Information: Portland Business Alliance, 520 S.W. Yamhill Street, Portland, OR 97204; telephone (503)224-8604; fax (503)323-9186. Oregon Employment Department, 875 Union Street N.E., Salem, OR 97301; telephone (800)237-3710; email info@emp.state.or.us


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