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Portland Climbs 8 Spots in “Best City” Rankings

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Downtown Portland

Portland is moving up in the world. In a list of the best performing cities released by the Milken Institute, Portland climbed eight spots to be named the eighth best large city in the United States.

Portland was paired with the cities of Hillsboro and Vancouver, Washington as one metro area for the sake of the study. Each year, the Milken Institute ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth. The components include job, wage and salary, and technology growth. 

The Milken Institute's Best Large Cities 2015

High Tech Industry Drives Growth

In addition to being the 8th ranked city, behind Seattle/Bellevue/Everett in the 7th spot and San Jose, California at the top of the list, Portland/Hillsboro/Vancouver was ranked highly for it’s growth in the high-tech sphere.

“Solid job and wage growth supported the metro’s exceptional performance in the index’s high-tech measures,” the study said of the Portland metro area. “It came in fifth for the concentration of its high-tech sectors, which continue to expand faster than the national average, though the gap has closed in recent years.”

Sheri Dover, founder and director of PDX Code Guild, told GoLocal that those numbers show that Portland has established itself as a hub for technological growth.

“Portland has definitely proven that it is a legit and happening place for tech companies,” Dover said. “Five years ago, it was much harder to start a tech company or bring tech talent to Portland, because there weren't many other jobs if something went wrong. That’s really changed over time.”

Portland's rankings in the Milken Institute's metrics

More to Come?

Dover said that in order to continue this pattern of growth, Portland would have to tackle its housing issue head-on.

“We need to increase the amounts of units there are for people to live in,” Dover said. “Now, instead of just one hub for technology, Portland is one of many destinations for tech companies. We need to make sure they don’t find a better or more affordable place to live.”

Tom Potiowsky, Director of the Northwest Economic Research Center at Portland State University, told GoLocal that if job growth is to last, definite gaps between employers and those searching for a job need to be filled.

“The problem is that the people who are unemployed don't have the resources to be retrained,” Potiowsky said. “They cannot afford to just go get new training and there are no government programs in this area for them to get that training.”

John Taponga, President of ECONorthwest, agreed, saying there was a “mismatch” between those looking for jobs and employers seeking to fill openings. He said that most employers post job openings with specific qualifications and that most people seeking to find a job don't stack up to those requirements. He also advocated for improved education in the state.

"First and foremost, we need to improve the reputation of our education system," Taponga said, "from kindergarten to high school, all the way to higher education. "People will talk about how they can't find jobs, while companies will tell you they have shortages. Companies need to talk to schools, who need to talk to students about what skills they need to have."

Potiowsky said it is important to look at what job skills will be desired by employment in the future.

“Right now, we can't just train people to fill a need that's there in the next two weeks,” he said. “We need to have a forward looking aspect towards this. That's why programs like STEM programs and others in schools are so important.”


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