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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.
Monday, July 14, 2014
BY TERRY "STARBUCKER" ST. MARIE
I really didn’t know that much about angel investing, but I did know a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
BY TED AUSTIN & MIKE BAELE | GUEST CONTRIBUTORS
The Office of Economic Analysis announced that Oregon is currently enjoying the strongest job growth since 2006. While this resurgence has been welcome, the lingering effects of the 2008 “Great Recession” continues to affect Oregon businesses, especially with regard to estate planning and business succession.
Monday, July 07, 2014
BY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER
Named after the 2010 experiment by Thomas Ryan, "Robin Sages" are fake social media profiles designed to encourage linking and divulging valuable information.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
OB Research Editor Kim Moore shares some pointers about the 100 Best Companies to Work For survey.
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
The New Yorker recently published a sharply worded critique of “disruptive innovation,” one of the most widely cited theories in the business world today. The article raises questions about the descriptive value of disruption and innovation — whether the terms are mere buzzwords or actually explain today's extraordinarily complex and fast changing business environment.
Update: We caught up with Portland's Thomas Thurston, who shared his data driven take on the disruption controversy.
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
Portland startup Green Endeavor strikes gold, inking a partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based consulting and certification company with offices in 46 countries.
Friday, August 15, 2014
In this week's poll, we asked readers: "Who should pay for the troubled Cover Oregon website?" Here are the results.
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Vigilant enters a New Year with a new president.
How George Fox has become one of Oregon's largest private universities.
Forest Grove sees growth in the burgeoning food and beverage scene.
Lane Powell Shareholder William T. Patton has been appointed to the board of directors for Cascade AIDS Project, an organization that provides educational services and outreach to thousands of Oregonians living with HIV/AIDS.
Fifty-one Lane Powell lawyers were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® (Best Lawyers) 2015; of those selected, 23 lawyers are from the Firm’s office in Portland, Oregon.
Barran Liebman is proud to announce that Andrew Schpak, a Partner of the firm, has been named Chair of the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division for the 2014-2015 bar year.