Maybe success isn't everything it's cracked up to be. That seems to be the ultimate lesson learned from the recent experiences of the Portland/Vancouver MSA, which ranks 23rd in the West this year. A perennial winner in our best cities ranking, greater Portland has justly earned its reputation as an entrepreneurial city. Yet its much lower-place finish this year reflects not only how difficult it is to keep a winning streak going but the double-edged nature of success itself.
Had it not enjoyed such success, Portland probably wouldn't have attracted an influx of Japanese-owned firms into its city limits--geographic proximity to the Pacific Rim notwithstanding. This boon, however, makes Portland vulnerable to the effects of the current Asian economic crisis. Similarly, the high quality of life and low unemployment enjoyed in Portland draws transplants from other states--and strains city resources in the process.
Not to be discouraged, Portland's leaders and citizens are all the more determined to plan for a prosperous future. Toward that end, Portland continues work on a light-rail transit system to lessen congestion throughout the metropolitan area. Additionally, greater emphasis is being placed on school-to-work and welfare-to-work programs. And, spurred on by the not-for-profit Oregon Entrepreneurs' Forum (OEF), Portland is taking care to nurture its fast-growing companies through business mentoring as well as the Oregon Emerging Business Initiative, sponsored by the OEF.
Nicely diversified, the greater Portland economy is nevertheless rich in high-tech businesses. Again, however, clouds are appearing on the horizon; witness recent reports of a slump in this very high-tech sector. Still, as a national leader in new manufacturing jobs, Portland can hardly be counted out.