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Portlanders imagine a healthy, sustainable economy that benefits everyone.

Section Summary

Portlanders place great emphasis on the importance of sustaining the local and regional economy and facilitating the expansion of the small business sector. In this section, people express appreciation for the diversity of the city’s economy, which includes industries ranging from high-tech to sporting goods to creative services. Many respondents believe that Portland has great potential for further economic growth.

The economy is viewed by respondents as being closely integrated with quality of life and livability issues. There is widespread agreement that Portland should continue to make economic development decisions in alignment with social equity and sustainability goals, and they call for a more equitable distribution of resources, whether it is affordable housing, quality schools, improved public transportation or street improvements in income-deprived neighborhoods. Many people believe that expanding local industries to reduce dependence on imported goods and services would help boost our local economy. A smaller number of people mention wanting to see Portland play a larger role in the global economy. 

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. The main source of Portland’s thriving economy is and should continue to be its local, small businesses.
  2. The economy of Portland has potential for growth.
  3. A sustainable economy will contribute to Portland’s livability and quality of life.
  4. Portland needs greater economic equity.

Summary of Tensions and Disagreements

  1. Should Portland focus on promoting local, sustainable businesses or expanding global trade?


  1. The main source of Portland’s thriving economy is and should continue to be its local, small businesses.
  • Many respondents appreciate the abundance of locally owned and operated businesses in Portland.
  • Portlanders believe that, to a large extent, local businesses demonstrate the following positive attributes:
    • They place value in the local environment and take care to protect it;
    • They are more invested in the communities and neighborhoods where they are located;
    • They create jobs for the community’s residents;
    • The products and services they offer are tailored to match Portlanders' unique tastes, as opposed to the “cookie cutter” services offered by “big box” stores; and
    • They contribute to creating a diverse economy that is not overly reliant on one major business sector.
  • Independent, locally-owned businesses should be promoted and supported.
  • Portlanders want to see an even greater diversity of businesses and industry sectors to help the economy “sustain through the bad times."

  • “I appreciate the diverse economic base we have here (high-tech, agricultural support, shipping, and fabrication/traditional industry). The broad economic base in Portland provides stability to the local economy and is an asset to the region.”

    “More promotion of small, local businesses.”

  1. The economy of Portland has potential for growth.
  • Portland is well positioned for further economic growth and development.
  • Respondents want to see the full potential of this city and its residents “awakened.”
  • The city needs to utilize the talent, education and creative backgrounds of all Portlanders.
  • Any economic growth should be secure and sustained over time.
  • Many people see the need for Portland’s economy to continue to integrate with the region and want the City to prioritize infrastructure improvements that support regional economic development.

    "[In the future] businesses have recognized Portland is an excellent place for large employers to locate, small companies to thrive, and local businesses to be successful. It should have a much more diversified economy than it has today."

    “Attract new businesses to build our economy. Not just anybody though—businesses that hold the values of the northwest (love the environment, arts, and are socially responsible). Don’t allow businesses to exploit our land, people, or sense of community.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. “Engage the region’s public and private sector leaders in an ongoing dialogue about what it will take for this region to have a vibrant economy in the years ahead.”
  2. Provide a means and a public forum for developing a widely shared understanding of our economic challenges and opportunities and outline the steps we need to take to advance the region’s economy. Meet periodically to assess our progress.

  1. A sustainable economy will contribute to Portland’s livability and quality of life.
  • Portlanders recognize that the economy is the foundation of our livability. However, they also understand that jobs and environment are not either/ors.
  • Many believe future economic growth needs to incorporate economic, social and environmental planning and development.
  • Portlanders love that, overall, the city seems to prioritize livability by balancing economic development with preservation of the city's natural beauty.

    “Portland should have a mission to bring together resources to achieve Portland’s vision of a diverse, sustainable community with healthy neighborhoods, a vibrant urban core, a strong regional economy and quality jobs for all citizens.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Create an index to measure local quality of life based on economic factors.

  1. Portland needs greater economic equity.
  • Respondents assert that for the economy to be stable, everyone must have a stake in economic growth and have access to its benefits.
  • Portlanders want to see greater equity in the following areas:
    • The development of housing stock that is affordable to people of all income levels;
    • Wages that allow people who work full-time to be able to afford to live in Portland and enjoy a decent quality of life;
    • Equitable compensation for professions that the community needs and values, such as teachers, childcare providers, janitors and others who help keep the city livable; and
    • A more equitable tax structure that shifts some of the burden away from small businesses and middle-income individuals onto those who can afford to pay higher taxes (see Government: State and Local Taxes).
  • Economic equity needs to be linked with tangible outcomes for residents, such as access to higher education and quality schools, child care and affordable housing.

    "…More utilization and motivation of the talented, educated, and thoughtful of Portland's population."


  1. Should Portland focus on promoting local, sustainable businesses or expanding global trade?

    What many Portlanders value most about the city’s economy is the abundance of small, local businesses. Some even think that small businesses should lead the local economy, and they see the potential for Portland’s economy to become self-sustaining, replacing dependence on foreign goods or other imports. One tension point is in thinking about the interconnection of local and global markets, even within the types of small businesses many Portlanders desire to support. Some businesses that appear to have sustainable, local products may also maintain a relationship with the global economy through import/export of goods, products or other practices that reach beyond the local community. What is the extent to which Portland can realistically sustain itself, independent of the national or global economy?

    There is an opinion expressed by a minority of respondents that the expansion of global trade is absolutely necessary for Portland’s future economy to thrive. They see the need for economic growth through greater international exports and imports, and want Portland to become a metropolitan city with a stable economy based on a strong traded sector. This group would think it unrealistic for the city to have a self-sustaining local economy driven only by small, independent businesses.

“[I would like us to] focus on creating a truly vibrant and self-sufficient local economy, and shift jobs from the international capitalist system to locally-owned anderated cooperative ventures.”

“No one is working to ensure that there is a balance of revenue creation (business and jobs) with all the 'feel good' wants. No real economic development is being encouraged. Lots of building is going on but there’s no plan to attract or retain business. Portland is anti-big business but it’s big business that creates the jobs, pays the taxes, has the ability to give back to the community via charitable support, etc.”

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