Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why Portland, OR economy is likely to stagnate for a while

The May 22 edition of the Oregonian chronicles how Columbia Sportswear, a billion-dollar company, was driven out of the city of Portland by the city's bureaucratic hassling. The story authors report how
"In 2000, the company said it was considering a move from Portland's St. Johns area to the Central Eastside Industrial District, near downtown. Instead, it bolted to a warehouse-office district off U.S. 26 in Washington County. Its complaints about the difficulty of working with city government in building a new headquarters embarrassed city political leaders but resonated with business leaders."

The company moved in spite of the fact that CEO Tim Boyle had strong ties to the city of Portland and
"cared enough about Portland to devote his speech at the Portland Business Alliance's annual meeting to tips for a better-run city, including some sharp jabs at city government. Last year, Columbia committed to donating $1 million for Portland parks, while Boyle publicly professed his love for Portland in an interview. And this month, Boyle donated $10,000 to back Mayor Tom Potter's reforms for Portland City Hall."
If the city annoys businesses run by people loyal to the city so much that they take their companies elsewhere, then Portland is unlikely to see major relocations of businesses within its borders anytime soon, and individuals that have companies they are planning on growing will likely pick other locations to build their businesses as well. Tellingly, the Oregonian article states that if Columbia did happen to move back to the city, "Landing Columbia's 636 headquarters jobs in the region's core would be the biggest single relocation of jobs to the downtown area in decades."

Columbia has been incredibly successful recently; according to the article "its sales have doubled from $614 million in 2000 to $1.29 billion in 2006."

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