May 17th, 2009
WSJ: Portland continues to attract talent, despite stumbling economy
As if we needed another sign of the opportunity and potential we have within our grasp here in the Silicon Forest, the Wall Street Journal has just published a piece on Portland and its ability to attract young educated people—even though they might not have jobs waiting for them.
What will come as little shock to any of us—but seems to be confounding the WSJ—is that any number of people are attracted to Portland for way of life, first and foremost. Even though joining the ranks of those in Portland may also mean joining the ranks of the under-employed or completely unemployed.
This drizzly city along the Willamette River has for years been among the most popular urban magnets for college graduates looking to start their careers in a small city of like-minded folks. Now the jobs are drying up, but the people are still coming. The influx of new residents is part of the reason the unemployment rate in the Portland metropolitan area has more than doubled to 11.8% over the past year, and is now above the national average of 8.9%.
The beautiful if not morose photography by Sean Flanigan which accompanies the piece just serves to drive that point home.
Unfortunately, this is leaving us with a glut of young and well-educated talent sitting on the bench. That’s a problem. And it’s yet another opportunity for Portland to take the lead in solving the issue.
Portland has attracted college-educated, single people between the ages of 25 and 39 at a higher rate than most other cities in the country. Between 1995 and 2000, the city added 268 people in that demographic group for every 1,000 of the same group living there in 1995, according to the Census Bureau. Only four other metropolitan areas had a higher ratio. The author of the Census report on these “youth magnet” cities, Rachel Franklin, now deputy director the Association of American Geographers, says the Portland area’s critical mass of young professionals means it has a “sustained attractiveness” for other young people looking for a place to settle down.
Portland continues to sit on its two-legged stool: lots of ideas and lots of talent to bring those ideas to fruition. What remains—and the third leg we desperately need—is a means of funding startup pursuits in a way that works for both those providing the capital and those requiring access to it.
Here’s hoping we can find that solution sooner rather than later.
(Image courtesy jasonatennui. Used under creative commons.)