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|Articles - April 2014|
|Thursday, March 27, 2014|
Page 1 of 6
BY LEE VAN DER VOO
The photo was taken in 1940. And while that grain hose looks like the corrugated arm of some retrograde, midcentury robot, it was an enormous technological revolution in its day. It’s called an airveyor — a marriage between a vacuum cleaner and a conveyor belt. It came after steel ships revolutionized the waterfront, but before the marine container shifted global trade forever.
The era of its conception is a lot like today: a time of change. Except today’s technological revolution looks less like robots and more like people. In fact, it is people. Fifteen million of them passed through the Portland International Airport in 2013. When you see people sloughing off their belts and shoes at the security gates, bleeping through the metal detectors, it’s hard to imagine them as anything other than fellow souls patiently trying to get where they’re going.
But as the United States awakens to the knowledge that 95% of the world’s customers live elsewhere, some of the best growth commodities this town, and much of the country, have to offer are ideas and talent. In other words: people.
As we enter an era where we are our own growth export, other factors are impacting the trade environment. The United States is on the cusp of an energy revolution. Dovetailing with rising wages overseas, manufacturing may move home. In the metro region, those global shifts converge at the Port of Portland.
Though change is a constant there, it is particularly obvious these days, evident in the outsourced management of marine containers, the sometimes frantic efforts to retain carriers, and disputes over land and labor.
From the outside, the Port of Portland seems to be losing a lot of battles and its foothold. Critics say it’s fallen out of step with a community that’s increasingly focused on livability. But you have to take a broad view to see what’s really happening: macroeconomic shifts that too much squinting obscures.
The world is changing, leaving the Port of Portland at a crossroads. As its executive director, Bill Wyatt, looks toward retirement, and the business community takes stock, the Port is reorganizing and retooling for a new era, asking how to become a port of the 21st century.
The Port of Portland was born in a similarly transitional time in 1890, when grain was king and moving things was the heart of the economy. This used to be a private industry. Wooden ships hitched up to private docks that cropped up on the Willamette River. Oregon City, Vancouver, Milwaukie — all wanted to have the best port on the river.
Portland won the race when wood became metal and the private docks briefly floundered, unable to service steel-hulled ships. The city and state paired to buy the stumbling docks, built better ones and stole the river’s trade show for good.
Thus became the Port of Portland. Today it’s still a gateway at the Willamette and Columbia rivers, acts as a vein gathering cargo from upstream and dominates maritime trade in the metro region. While little of what the Port now exports is built here, the economic footprint of its trade is still felt.
Yet while grain is still the Port’s largest export by volume, accounting for 35% of cargo exports, only about 26% of exports from the Pacific Northwest were actually grown here last year. Instead, semiconductors have the biggest economic ripple, accounting for $15.2 billion of the $27.6 billion in goods exported in 2012.
And as the export economy grows, 18.5% of the money flowing from regional exports came from exports that weren’t goods at all, instead stemming from sales of services overseas, digital content and intellectual property. That number underscores how some of the biggest companies in the region are shifting focus from making things to creating ideas.
“We almost have what I call an accidental economic development strategy … I don’t think it was anybody’s strategy to have sort of the Portlandia view of, ‘We’ll build a place that’s so cool that lots of smart people will want to come here,’” says principal economist Joe Cortright of Impresa, Inc., the Portland-based consulting firm.
But in effect, he says, that’s what we’ve got. So as the Port pursues its mission to serve as a gateway to the Pacific, it must do it in a community that is increasingly focused on moving people and ideas, and in a place that is shifting from being a port town to a city where this creative class ethos reigns.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
BY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER
Uncertainty is a part of doing business, whether in through the lens of investment opportunities and risks or the business of running an enterprise.
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN
Damian Smith bets on changing himself — and Portland — through consulting.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
The entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well at the Oregon Angel showcase, an annual event for angel investors and early stage entrepreneurs.
Monday, April 27, 2015
10 briefcases that mean business.
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Mohan Nair channels a visionary.
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Oregon already ranks as the nation’s second largest generator of hydroelectric power. (Washington is No. 1). Now an elegant new installation in Portland is putting an unconventional, sharing economy twist on this age-old water-energy pairing. The new system, launched this winter, uses the flow of water inside city water pipes to spin four turbines that produce electricity for Portland General Electric customers.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
There are more than 160 farmers markets in Oregon, contributing an estimated $50 million in sales, according to the Oregon Farmers Markets Association. We checked in on the Forest Grove market, which for several years has brought local produce and food vendors to Main Street in the center of town.
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Beaverton firm's business intelligence platform rivals that of industry heavyweights.
The Oregon Entrepreneurs Network (OEN) will be presenting its third annual Entrepreneurial Summit on Friday, June 5 at Castaway in Portland, Oregon.
On June 13th Mayor Charlie Hales will attend nonprofit organization Dream Change’s inaugural Love Summit and will introduce one of its keynote speakers, Dan Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency.
34 spots for food, 17 places to sip, and 7 sites to choose a brew beckon visitors.