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Portland’s Export Economy Hailed as National Leader

Thursday, January 15, 2015


The City of Portland has been held up by as a national leader for its efforts to export local goods and services to Asia and South American.

City policies that promote Portland-based companies looking to export in countries like Columbia, Mexico, China and Japan, have become a model for cities around the nation, according to a Jan. 6 report by the Brookings Institute.

Since 2011, the City has been part of the Brookings’ Global Cities Initiative, a five-year study on public efforts, in 12 metropolitan areas, to increase international trade. 

Brookings recently evaluated how the progress and success of the participating metro areas. While outlining the five most effective plans and features for boosting local economy through exports, Portland’s efforts were praised for producing results.  

One area Portland thrived in was focusing on “threshold firms”—small-and mid-sized manufactures that have proven themselves and show promise of a bright future.

“Under Mayor Sam Adams, we said to ourselves ‘we need to prioritize markets better,” said Chris Harder, economic development director for the Portland Development Commission. “International trade cuts across all the clusters we work with.”

For the last five years the PDC has been actively promoting local industrial clusters, such as the sportswear industry.

While the city has been promoting Portland’s clean tech, advanced manufacturing, software and sportswear industries domestically, PDC found the largest foreign demand for the Made in Portland brand has been for services connected with urban development.

“We kind of take if for granted here, but there is an international interest in Portland’s sustainable development,” said Michael Gurton, PDC’s international business development director. “We have a global advantage in urban development.”

Since 1990, Portland’s metropolitan area population has increased 20 percent, job growth has gone up 15 percent, but carbon emissions have dropped by 11 percent, according to city data.

“We’re a city that has grown and grown but the amount of energy we use has declined,” said Harder. “There’s a lot of interest in that. Conventional thinking in the developing world is that you can’t have growth and sustainability.“

The city’s We Build Green Cities efforts has flown local architectures, landscape architectures and development firms to China, Japan and Columbia to sell foreign officials on the expertise of local companies.

Architecture firm ZGF and landscape architects Murase and Associates have secured contract to work on Japan’s massive Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City development being built in Tokyo by Hitachi, said Gurton.

Portland firms have also won contracts for the Japanese Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transportation.

PDC officials said they hoped that another Portland firm they’ve promoted was closing in on a deal with the city of Medellin Columbia, known for its new Gondola transit system.

China represented a huge potential market for Portland firms working in sustainable development and the city has been working with the cities of Kunming and Changsha.

“It’s been a fantastic market for us,” Harder said. “In China the need for green cities is great.”

While, the city is also working to promote traditional manufacturing companies, including small-scale, artisan style companies that they call “craft manufacturing,” PDC said that exporting services is a major growth area for Portland.

Gurton said that regardless of the industries that are ultimately involved, they are focused on helping to make sales and close deals.

“This is about transactions and deals for our firms.”


Related Slideshow: 25 Reasons Why Portland is the Best

Portlanders love their city for many reasons, but there are some things that make the city famous around the country. Check out 25 reasons Portland is best city in the country.

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Portlanders love their coffee, and with some of the best coffee shops and roasters in the country setting up shop here, it’s easy to see why.  

The city has great local coffee roasters, like Stumptown's Duane Sorenson, who know how to make the perfect blend of Northwest flavor. 

Whether you’re drinking a hazelnut soy latte or cup of a strong dark roast, one of Portland’s many cozy coffee shops or huts is the place to enjoy it. 

Photo credit: iStock

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Breweries are abundant in Portland, more than any other city on the earthNicknamed “Beervana,” Portland is the place to sample delicious state brews. 

Great beer festivals, events, and tasting opportunities keep beer connoisseurs happy all year long.  

Photo Credit: Joel Olives via Compfight cc

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Portland is surrounded Oregon’s rich wine country, famous for its Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris varieties.

The wine tourism industry has been growing in Oregon, and a boosting the economy. 

Most of the state’s wineries and tasting rooms are close by in the Yamhill Valley, where visitors can enjoy scenic views and award winning wines.The city is also known for it's wine bars and tasting rooms. 

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With fantastic local beer and wine flowing, it’s no surprise culinary artistry is thriving in Portland. Talented chefs and easy access to local and fresh ingredients supply help Portland’s food culture thrive.

The city has numerous restaurants with menus and dishes people can’t get enough of.  And have you seen Gregory Gourdet and Doug Adams on top Chef: Boston? They’re killing it!

Photo credit: iStock

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Books & Authors

Powell’s Books, established in Portland in 1971, is the largest independently owned new and used bookstore in the world.  The city is full of bookstores of all types and sizes, however. 

Portland is also home to famous authors, like Chuck Palahniuk or Cheryl Strayed

Photo credit: iStock

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Public Transit

Portland’s public transit system has been called one of the top five in the country.

With the MAX, streetcars, and buses connecting the metro area, it’s easy and cheap to get around and enjoy whatever event is happening for the night. 

Photo Credit: transitpeople via Compfight cc

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Portland has been ranked the second nerdiest city in America, and proudly embraces it. The city has the most comic book stores per population and hosts the bustling Rose City Comic Con.

Dark Horse Comics is also located here, and many “live action role-playing” opportunities exist as well. 

Photo credit: iStock

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Rain or shine, you can always spot someone running in Portland.  With plenty of beautiful running trails and paths, Portland draws out the runner in most. 

The city hosts many races every year, such as the Portland Marathon, Race for the Roses or the Shamrock Run

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Portland was one of the top five cities for launching a startup, according to Forbes. Its online community makes advertising and connecting with customers easy.

A sense of community and commitment to local businesses also helps entrepreneurs succeed in Portland. 

Photo credit: iStock

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Tax-free shopping

Oregon is one of the five states in the U.S. with tax-free shopping.

In Portland, there are many places to take advantage of it, from large shopping centers, to hole-in-the-wall boutiques, to the famous Saturday Market. 

Photo credit: iStock

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Portland is home to the world famous Voodoo Doughnuts. Its funky theme fits Portland. Doughnuts with bacon, frosting, cereal, cookies, drizzles—what’s not to love.

Yet there are many delicious doughnuts shops all over Portland to satisfy anyone's sweet tooth. 

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The Oregon Coast is breathtaking, with its rocky cliffs and vast beeches.

Portland is just about an hour from quaint beach towns like Seaside or Cannon Beach, were visitors can spend the weekend exploring the beaches and feasting on fresh seafood. 

And nearby Astoria is as about as hip as you can get now.

Photo credit: iStock

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Food carts

Food carts are famous in Portland, offering delicious, ethnic, and creative food for people on the go. 

Portland has over 600 carts in city limits. They are usually grouped in “pods,” making it easy to compare and sample the variety. 

Photo credit: Beth Olson on Flickr

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It may be a Northwest trend, but Portland knows how to pull it off. It’s hard to walk down the street and not see some form of stylish facial hair. 

The 2014 World Beard and Moustache Championships were held in Portland this year, where participants from all over came to show off their facial hair and styling techniques. 

Photo credit: Byron Beck

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The Portland Timbers, a professional soccer club, draw huge crowds and support from the city. The team won their MLS western conference last year and great things are expected for their future.

Being a part of the Timber Army, the legendary crowd cheering section, is coveted by any fan and has a waitlist in the thousands. 

Photo Credit: rayterrill via Compfight cc

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Alternative Eats

Vegan. Gluten Free. Organic. GMO free. Food allergies.

No matter your eating preferences, Portland’s eateries have you covered.  The city has a wide selection of alterative options for food that is gaining recognition through the U.S.  

Photo credit: iStock

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Portland a national center for all types of designers. From graphic to interior to fashion designers, these creatives are making a name for themselves and the Northwest. 

Every October,Portland's Design Week celebrates the creativity and culture of the profession, with lectures, exhibits, and events. 

Photo credit: iStock

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Forest Park

Just west of Downtown Portland stretches Forest Park, the nation’s largest urban park. It’s 5,000 plus acres offer all types of outdoor activities.

It’s a great way to enjoy and appreciate the trees and nature Oregon is so well known for. 

Photo Credit: iStock

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If looking for a bike friendly city, look no further than bike capital Portland.

Whether communing to work or just enjoying one of the cities great bike paths, Portland is the place with the city infrastructure and bike shops to keep you peddling. 

The city hosts many bike race events, such as the World Naked Bike Ride through downtown. 

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The award winning TV show staring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen showed America what Portlanders have known for years about life here. The comical sketches portray the quirkiness and loveableness of hipster Portland.

Although it may be slightly exaggerated, the show put life in Portland on the map. 

Photo credit: webvisionsevent on Flickr

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Portland get’s more than its fair share of rain, but Portlanders embrace it. They don’t let a little rain get in the way of a good time, and know how to make the most of it.

Plus it keeps Portland green and beautiful, so who can argue with that?   

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Athletic Shoes

With as much as Portlanders are out and about, they make sure their feet have the best athletic shoes. 

Both Nike headquarters and Adidas North America headquarters are located in Portland, employing or shoeing a good amount of the population. 

Photo credit: iStock

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Portland is surrounded by attractions for outdoor adventures, including hiking, rock climbing, skiing, and wind surfing. 

The city is close to many spectacular formations, like the Columbia River Gorge, Smith Rock near Bend, and Mt. Hood, a popular winter destination for snow sports. 

Photo credit: iStock

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Portland art culture is vibrant and wide spread. The Pearl District is the hub, but the Alberta Arts District is also bursting with galleries, cafes, and art studios.

Most art is free to view to the public, and the monthly gallery walk always draw huge crowds.

The Portland Art Museum is one of the largest and oldest in the Northwest, and draws thousands every year. 

Photo credit: iStock

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The Portland music scene brings people from all over the state. Music festivals like Music Fest NW or the Waterfront Blues Festival, and a busy live concert line up, means there is always someplace to go enjoy music. 

Portland was also the starting place for many band leaders, like Sleater-KinneyThe Decemberists and Pink Martini, just to name a few. 

Photo credit: iStock


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