Our take on the second largest city in the Pacific Northwest

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By Chris Rising

Over the past decade, Portland has grown wealthier, more educated and has seen a boom in population that has consistently outpaced the national average. It is the second largest city in the Pacific Northwest, after Seattle, and the 26th largest in the country. The West Coast city is experiencing one of the highest population growth rates in the country and record low unemployment. With help from Portland’s beautiful nature, affordability, and rich food and arts scene, U.S. News and World Report named the city the number one place to live in 2018.  The area’s strong economy has led to a healthy job market and has attracted tech companies looking for a more cost-effective location than the Silicon Valley or Seattle. Few urban centers provide a friendly environment that rivals Portland’s and it’s no wonder why young people are flocking to the well-rounded, job abundant city.  

Portland lies along the Columbia River, about an hour from Mt. Hood National Forest, the Oregon coastline, and the vineyards of the Willamette Valley.  Residents can enjoy snow sports in the winter months, water sports in the Summer, and hiking and running year-round. For tech companies that value employee quality of life, these amenities and Portland’s central location have made the thriving metropolis a desirable location to relocate to. Because of this, the city has taken on a new nickname: “The Silicon Forest”.  Intel and Salesforce are two examples of companies that have recently expanded their presence in downtown Portland, driving up office rents and absorption over the last 3 years. With construction booming in the downtown area, we expect to see even more companies moving into the area.

Affordability is another unique quality that has driven younger people and tech companies to Portland in recent years.  At 26.7%, Portland’s rent to income ratio is the lowest of any major west coast tech center and offers much lower rents compared to cities like San Francisco (48.8%) and Los Angeles (39.5%), with similar pay in tech jobs.  These high-wage jobs have driven many well educated and student loan burdened millenials to seek tech jobs in Portland, as opposed to other West Coast submarkets, at one of the fastest rates in the nation. This large millennial population has increased the demand for last mile storage and warehousing space and driven up industrial real estate values across the greater Portland area.

Even while growing, Portland has maintained its sense of community and collaboration in the food space.  Food culture is huge in the city, from the creative talent in the restaurant scene to the renowned food trucks that center around organic ingredients and sustainable practices. The city also possesses its own distinct personality in the rich local arts and entertainment scene.  Portland is home to many theaters, museums, art galleries and the oldest public library on the West Coast. This abundance of restaurants, shops and events has transformed the city into a millennial hotspot with a dining experience unlike any other place in America and a burgeoning culture.

We think Portland’s abundance of amenities, affordability, and culture have left the versatile region poised for a promising future.  Over the next 15 years, the state of Oregon projects a 30% increase in the greater Portland area population, which is expected to drive up values and offer unique development opportunities.