Business Tribune column: Why companies choose Greater Portland
We are proud to market our region to the world.
As an economic development organization, Greater Portland Inc (GPI) recruits companies that add good-paying jobs to the region.
Recently, we've recruited:
- Element Six: The U.K. company is building a $94 million diamond lab in Gresham.
- 10net Managed Solutions: The Vancouver, B.C.-based digital signage company opened its first U.S. office in Southeast Portland.
- Oros Apparel: The NASA-inspired technical apparel company relocated its headquarters from Cincinnati to Southeast Portland.
- RealWear: This firm, which creates wearable computers for workers, moved its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Vancouver.
Our team spends a lot of time with company executives sharing the benefits of relocating to Greater Portland. Our region especially shines when it comes to access to talent, quality of life and global connectivity.
Access to talent
Companies prize access to a large pool of highly qualified workers. According to 2017 U.S. Census data, more than 40% of our region's residents over age 25 hold a bachelor's degree or higher.
Greater Portland also has highly specialized pools of talent within industry clusters, like athletic apparel design and high-tech manufacturing.
For Oros, this was crucial.
"Portland is the technical apparel hub of the world," says Rithvik Venna, Oros's co-founder and chief operations officer. "So we knew that if we wanted to scale the business at the rate we were scaling it, we needed to be close to the talent that would allow us to do that."
For Element Six, proximity to the Silicon Forest and that specialized workforce was key. To create laboratory-grown diamonds, the company needed access to engineers, scientists and technicians accustomed to working in a precision manufacturing environment.
Quality of life
Our region attracts young, educated talent in droves for its excellent quality of life. Outdoor recreation opportunities, strong professional communities, a nationally recognized food scene, and multi-modal transportation options make Greater Portland a fantastic place to live, work and play.
Tina Finan, chief financial officer and chief operating officer for 10net, says the region's culture factored heavily in its decision to expand in Portland.
"One of the things that was a huge deciding factor for us," Finan says, "was the introductions that [GPI] immediately made for us, whether it was in the tech community, whether it was in the creative community — they just connected us with all the right people."
RealWear Founder and CEO Andy Lowery echoed the importance of community.
"It just made sense from an economic point of view to grow a business in this region....," says Lowery. "The beautiful area is one that I can imagine living in the rest of my life. I think the most important reason was the people and the community and those introductions were led by GPI and CREDC (Columbia River Economic Development Council). I think that was most influential on the decision to come to region."
Our region is home to hundreds of global companies. This foreign direct investment in our region is important because it helps diversify our regional economy and boosts wages and R&D productivity.
"Being within a one-hour drive of an international airport is important," says General Manager Adam O'Grady of U.K- based Element Six., noting that PDX is only 15 minutes from the new Gresham facility. "It's ideal."
Portland International Airport, ranked No. 1 in the nation, is home to 16 airlines, offering 74 nonstop destinations and 263 daily departures. New nonstop flights include routes to London and Tokyo-Haneda.
Additionally, our region's location at the confluence of two rivers, two major interstates and two major railroads lends itself to cargo transport. Our two world-class ports serve as gateways to the largest markets in the world.
At GPI, we work hard to position our region as a good place to do business. We're proud of the thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in income we've helped bring to the region.
We look forward to continuing this work. Our region is a truly special place, and we're here to help it grow strong.
Matt Miller is the interim president and CEO of Greater Portland Inc. GPI is a public-private partnership working to advance regional economic development through job growth and investment. Matt can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org