Portland's jobs flee the urban core

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

BY BRANDON SAWYER | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

04.18.13 Blog CommuteWhile residential flight to the suburbs ebbed in the last decade or two amid urban gentrification, most jobs are still migrating outward.  Today the Brookings Institution released a report, Job Sprawl Stalls: The Great Recession and Metropolitan Employment Location, showing jobs continued to radiate away from urban cores since the year 2000, despite the recession’s harsh effects on sprawl-prone industries like construction, retail and manufacturing.

In an accompanying release, report author and Brookings fellow Elizabeth Kneebone says, “Building a healthy and sustainable regional economy is not just about growing jobs, but also about where those jobs locate. Low-density, sprawling development can lead to increased energy consumption, strains on infrastructure, longer commute times, and greater challenges connecting workers to employment.”

In Portland’s metro area, a measly 2,963 total jobs were added (+0.3%) during the entire decade, yet the area 10 to 35 miles away from its central business district (CBD) gained 27,556 jobs (+3.1%), largely because 5,119 jobs were lost (-0.8%) in the area 3 to 10 miles from the CBD. The three-mile city core lost 19,474 jobs (-2.3%).

Presumably, factors that contributed to this flow include employers moving workforces to the outer reaches and more new businesses starting up there, as well as layoffs and closures close to the CBD. So as ever more residents living downtown or in inner Northeast Portland find themselves commuting out to suburban campuses of like Nike and HP, they are retracing in reverse their forbears path who once commuted to jobs in the city from ranch homes in Beaverton or Wilsonville.

Portland does compare somewhat favorably to the nation in terms of job sprawl. Just 29.5% of its 2010 jobs were 10-35 miles from the CBD versus 43.1% for the 100 largest U.S. metros. The bulk of Portland’s jobs, 46.8%, were 3-10 miles out, versus 34.1% nationally; 23.8% of Portland jobs and 22.9% of 100-metro average jobs were in the inner three miles. Western neighbors San Jose, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City were among the top five most job-centralized metro areas.

In the current decade, efforts to encourage bringing jobs back to its core could go a long way toward achieving Portland's goals of greater sustainability, infrastructure efficiency and economic vitality.

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Research editor Brandon Sawyer digs heaps of data about privately-held and public companies, economics and industries.

 

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Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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