By Madeleine Pollard
Oregon’s largest city prides itself on being a little bit different, with residents known for their progressive politics and eco-friendly ethos. But Portland also means business, especially with a growing cluster of technology companies.
Forbes has ranked the city among the top five places for business and careers every year since 2015 thanks to its “strong growth prospects and a large share of highly educated millennials”. Average hourly pay for all occupations, at $27, is ahead of the national average of $24.98.
Portland has earned the name “Silicon Forest” for the cluster of high-tech companies in and around the city, particularly the industrial corridor to the west between Beaverton and Hillsboro.
Chipmaker Intel, the area’s largest corporate employer, forecasts creating 1,750 jobs through its new Hillsboro factory, due for completion in 2021, bringing its total Oregon workforce to around 22,000.
Google, Oracle, eBay, Mozilla and Airbnb have offices in the city, while sportswear company Nike’s global headquarters are in Beaverton.
Two wheels over four
Portland is known for its green credentials, becoming the first US city to adopt a carbon-reduction strategy back in 1993. Its bike-friendly initiatives are central to its eco-agenda.
The city’s Bicycle Plan aims to make cycling “more attractive than driving for trips of three miles or less, so that a minimum of 25 per cent of all trips will be by bicycle” by 2030. In addition to an ever-expanding network of cycle lanes, in 2016 Portland’s popular bike-sharing programme, Biketown, secured a five-year, $10m sponsorship from Nike.
This year, Portland was named the second most bicycle-friendly city in the US (after San Francisco) in insurance company Coya’s Bicycle Cities Index.
An eye for design
Portland is a hub of interior design and home decor, whether for furnishing a classic loft apartment, such as this one-bed in the city centre for sale through Sotheby’s International Realty, or a five-bedroom mid-century home in the suburbs.
US furniture chain Rejuvenation was founded here in 1977 and has a factory in the city as well as a 10,000 sq ft store in the historic Neustadter Building, selling lighting, hardware, furniture, decor and restored antiques.
Across the Willamette river is Schoolhouse Electric, offering handcrafted wares in a repurposed brick factory, while Canoe in downtown Portland favours goods made from natural materials in earthy, muted tones.
The annual Design Week Portland in April is a chance for locals to celebrate their creative flair and seek inspiration as the city’s homes, studios, museums, design agencies, retailers and manufacturers host events and open their doors to the public.
Portland sits in the fertile Willamette valley between two mountain ranges — the Cascade range to the east and the lower Coast range to the west.
The snow-capped Mount Hood stands 80km from the city on the south-east horizon and offers (almost) year-round skiing. Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark at an elevation of 6,000ft, is typically open between mid-November and late May, and claims to offer the longest ski season in North America.
Back on lower ground, the 5,000-acre Forest Park on the north-western edge of the city and Tryon Creek State Natural Area to the south are among Portland’s many beloved hiking spots.
Weird and wonderful
Portland is known for a certain cultural quirkiness. It hosts an annual naked bike ride, holds the Guinness world record for the world’s smallest park — the 2ft-wide Mill Ends Park on SW Taylor Street — and lays claim to “the largest used and new bookstore in the world”, Powell’s City of Books. The bookstore occupies an entire city block and houses approximately 1m books.
Portland’s idiosyncrasies have been satirised in the award-winning sketch show Portlandia, while its vocal polyamorous community inspired the sitcom You Me Her. Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, is a Portland native and based many of his characters’ surnames on local streets: NE Flanders Street, for example, runs through the city’s Laurelhurst neighbourhood.
Photographs: Natalie Behring/Bloomberg News; Ian Poellet/Wikipedia; Dreamstime