BY PETER BELAND
New nonstop flights from Portland International Airport will mean increased access for Oregon businesses to key locations. The new connection between PDX and Austin, Tex., will bridge the gap between the Silicon Hills and the Silicon Forest; a new connection to Washington, D.C, will increase access to the powerbrokers on Capitol Hill; and getting to key business hubs such as Dallas/Fort Worth and San Francisco will get easier.
Beyond the obvious boon to consumers, businesses and business travelers will reap a huge benefit from the new nonstops, including one to Los Angeles on Virgin Air, a new airline in the market.
In the early 1980s, “there were probably only a handful of Japanese companies” in Oregon, says Port of Portland’s general manger of air service management David Zielke. But then Delta in 1987 added a nonstop from PDX to Tokyo and “that number grew to well over 100.” Now “it’s like a highway from here to Japan,” says Zielke. He says there are 300,000 passengers on the Portland-D.C. route each year, and 100,000 for the Austin route. Zielke is optimistic that these numbers will grow with the nonstop flights.
The reason is simple: If you can get to a place more quickly, you’ll go there more often. “It makes the prospect of moving to Portland more attractive,” says Colin Sears, the VP of business development for Greater Portland Inc. Though many business transactions are now done online, “Doors are opened and closed with face-to-face connections.”
In an increasingly globalized economy, in which major Oregon companies such as Nike and Intel’s Hillsboro campus take part, speed is key. Nike alone has three major foreign offices that exchange ideas and personnel every day, including Amsterdam, which has had a nonstop connection from PDX since 2008. “There are probably 19 [Nike] people on that flight everyday,” says Zielke.
The direct flight to Washington, D.C, (which begins Aug. 28) was the product of a coalition of policymakers from the Northwest that sought to connect the Portland metro area’s tech sector to the capitol. “Oregon is fast becoming a technology industry hub and D.C. is the center for technology policy. Connecting these two regions with more direct flights will only serve to improve Oregon’s innovative tech industry,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) in a recent press release.
The new connection serves other sectors as well. “Almost everybody in business shares regulatory or legislative issues they need to be in D.C for,” says Zielke.
The new nonstops will also make it easier to transport small packages for expedited delivery. “Cargo is a revenue source,” says Zielke “But it’s not a main driver.”
Peter Beland is a contributing writer to Oregon Business.
Here are the new nonstop connections announced this year, according to the port:
Seasonal nonstop service to this new market
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Horizon Air/Alaska Airlines
Santa Barbara, Calif.