July 26th, 2009

Portland: Soaring unemployment and soaring numbers of young creatives continue to confound media


Portland: Soaring unemployment and soaring numbers of young creatives continue to confound media

We seem to be a complete enigma to the media. No one can quite to put their finger on why young creatives continue to flock to Portland even though the Oregon unemployment rate continues to soar.

Still, journalist are exercising a fair amount of schadenfreude while covering the inexorable influx—by focusing on the downside of our current environment. Like the unemployment. And the hiccups and black eyes of Portland startups.

Vidoop and CubeSpace are making it into big pubs. Not for the amazing work that they did. But because—to outsiders—they seem to carry some indication that Portland isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Luke Sontag of Vidoop was featured in a recent wire story on “young creatives” that ran under The New York Times banner, among others. (I would have quoted the AP story, but as we all know, the AP doesn’t believe in linking.)

Within weeks after Vidoop Inc. arrived, the financial companies Sontag hoped to snag as customers were out of the market for his Internet security services. The layoffs started in November. The company, he said, was reincorporating, planning for new financing and workers.

In the meantime, he’s plotting a company in mobile marketing with colleagues and living on savings. ”If all went to hell with this, I would not be moving,” he said. ”I wouldn’t give a flip if I had to pick up trash.”

CubeSpace gets mentioned in the same article, as does local developer and designer, Reid Beels.

CubeSpace, a prominent co-working spot, failed in June. Among the company’s workers is Reid Beels, 24, a free-lance Web designer and programmer. He said CubeSpace was ideal for Saturday ”code sprints,” exercises in problem-solving that drew together otherwise independent high-tech workers.

These days, Beels said, he’s doing his free-lance business out of coffee shops.

Oh, those crazy kids.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have visions of these journalists—with a Leonard-Nimoy-esque cocked eyebrow—shaking their collective head in Vulcan assessment of Portland. Muttering a single phrase over and over. “Highly illogical.”

It’s clear that Portland—and the entire Silicon Forest—are attractive to talented creative people. And they’re coming here in droves. Now, the onus is on us—the startup community, the city, and the state—to make something incredible happen with this influx of talent.

Otherwise, Portland just becomes a punchline.

(Image courtesy Salim Virji. Used under Creative Commons.)

Background that may help (or may not)

6 Responses to “Portland: Soaring unemployment and soaring numbers of young creatives continue to confound media”

  1. Elge Premeau says:

    I’d like to think we’re up to the task of helping new businesses get off the ground but the recent huge cuts and lay offs at the Small Business Development Center don’t bode well. For a state the claims to want to support small business, we’re doing a terrible job.

  2. Curt says:

    Rick:

    Click the link to listen to the theme song for your post, “Highly Illogical,” by Leonard Nimoy. I warn you, however, that it will separate your mind from its moorings.

  3. AdamD says:

    If only the journalists knew the companies these creatives want to start or work for. They don’t look like the normal companies that get coverage. The good news is they cost less to start than those normal companies.

  4. Bill Lynch says:

    Rick,

    I think you’re being overly defensive about these articles. I really doubt these reporters are hell-bent on smearing Portland’s reputation. There are a lot of cities in the same situation (WSJ references a few) and they’re getting written up too.

  5. Jeremy Logan says:

    I keep wondering why people are pointing to the failure of Vidoop as a sign of the times. The company was doomed from the get-go.

  6. laidoffguy says:

    Don’t you wonder though, if the news media doesn’t keep the recession going by continually reporting negative news? Unfortunately “bad news” sells better than “good news”.


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