Contrary to what you may have assumed about Portland, Ore. from watching Portlandia, it’s economy is actually doing quite well.
What’s even more impressive is that while high unemployment is driving the national labor-force participation rate down, the Portland area’s participation rate is now growing. In the aggregate, Texas is where people have been moving to get jobs, but if you like overcast weather and independent coffee shops, greater Portland’s not a bad alternative.
So what went right? To an extent, Portland’s benefitted from the fact that some of its local enthusiasms—bicycles, food trucks, microbrews, artisanal whatnot—have become more popular nationally, giving a boost to some growing local companies. The Portland area has also benefitted from the region’s green proclivities. Renewable energy has been a growth industry nationwide, and Portland is home to the North American base of Germany’s SolarWorld and Denmark’s Vestas, one of the world’s largest wind-turbine manufacturers.
In my time living in Portland, I was always impressed by the small business, DIY work ethic of the city’s inhabitants. It’s something special. There might not be as many big businesses hiring in the area, but there are probably more people creating their own businesses than just about anywhere else.