Will Portland Always Be a Retirement Community for the Young?

As American cities compete for college-educated workers, Portland has a unique problem: It has way too many.
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But as job prospects improve, and unemployment shrinks to its lowest levels since the crash, it’s likely that many of the young people who fled to Portland will soon chase their ambitions to less cool places — the ones that people move to when it’s time to become an adult.
A few things. We are in no danger of people actually growing up and becoming ADULT. This is a nation that perpetuates infantile behavior with games, beer and sports, and followers rarely have any insights that require giving all that up--just look at the sales of the new phone--millions in 24 hours.

The other thing is that having sat out the economic firestorm, their degrees and knowledge have withered on the vine. When people with current experience can't get promoted or better jobs, what can a guy with "home brew" on his tie expect from those companies that are pushing for more H1B visas?

2 2018-06-12 16:40:37 - dve commenter

They should hire older people. They enjoy working.

1 2017-10-28 04:47:56 - common sense

I was born and raised in Portland and left for NYU in 2009 because I wanted a challenge and big change. In short, I achieved my goal. Now I pay more than half of my monthly take-home pay on rent in a 'room' in Manhattan without a window or complete walls and a 60 hour work-week is standard to me. I evangelize about Portland and it really does sound like a fantasy-land compared to NYC where I've met middle-aged people who have never heard of compost. I'm seriously considering moving back now as the unending METS/Yankees debates, the inability to ever see stars, and the exaggerated need to be 'fashion-forward' have been waning on NYC's attractiveness...especially the pushing...so much pushing.

12 2017-10-05 04:38:37 - Jessica K

I love living in Portland, it's a great city! Except I live in Vancouver Washington, across the river, with no state income taxes. I am in downtown Portland in 15 minutes. Why would I want to pay 11%+ of my income in taxes to Multnomah county and Oregon when I can live on the Washington side and pay no income taxes at all beyond federal? Clark county has grown faster than Portland for years because we are more conducive to growth, and because if you have more than a modest income you are dis incentivized from living on the Portland side. The day Oregon and Multnomah abandon the income tax is the day I will happily pack up and move to the "cool" side of the river. This discrepancy with its neighboring state is a major reason Oregon has not kept pace with Washington's economic growth for so long.

7 2017-08-19 15:57:46 - Rob

Sounds dreadful. A rainy paradise full of young unambitious nobodies smoking pot.

48 2017-07-27 22:55:41 - DRS

"Many will never reap in six-figure salaries (or even half that), but that's not the point - people are just plain happy to live their dreams." You hit the nail on the head. There are a lot of entrepreneurs here (a PDX resident 12 years and counting), and if you're hungry enough, you can make it. Like you said, people don't pursue careers here; they pursue work that fills a purpose. That's the way of life here. Many people don't want to be CEO's and those that do want to be CEO of their own company. I don't know about the low coast of housing though. Rents get higher every year, and PDX has been a landlord's market for several years now.

6 2017-06-14 18:11:39 - Jane
"the overall tax rates (all in) are among the highest in the US"
Fact: 16th out of 50, so in the top half, but not that high

"A third bridge to Washington is desperately needed, and both state legislatures voted it down."
Fact: Oregon in 2013 approved funding a new bridge. As the Seattle Times wrote, "Lawmakers in Salem approved a two-state funding plan last year only to watch it wither in Olympia, Wash., where the Republicans who control the Senate vigorously oppose plans to use the new bridge to extend Portland's light-rail system into Vancouver, Wash."

"Car traffic is among the worst in the country. 2 hour commutes across town (11-18 miles) are typical."
Fact: Portland traffic was ranked 17th in a nationwide Texas A&M study. The predictability (or lack thereof, actually) of rush hour traffic was sixth worst, but even at that, the researchers said a typical 20-minute trip under bad circumstances could be an hour and 25 minutes.

"Total gridlock in the legislature"
Fact: Say what you will about the Oregon legislature, but it has been far, far less gridlocked than Congress. As noted in a recent editorial in the Salem Statesman-Journal:
"Whether Republican or Democratic, the most "ideologically pure" politicians are less successful in office despite sounding inspirational on the campaign trail. That rigid emphasis on ideology is why Congress has been in gridlock, whereas the Oregon Legislature has been much more productive."
5 2017-06-04 07:06:57 - Pete

Pretty much sums up the reason why we moved away 12 years ago. No corporate infrastructure for jobs, no innovation to support overal economic growth, high taxes and unreliable school funding, and skyrocketing house prices due to the influx of Californians who cashed out.

It's almost like Portland would rather be weird than livable.

So we're in the Midwest, where our nicer home is half the price - and still in the city - we're both gainfully employed, and if we miss Portland - well, we can just hop on a plane and visit.

And the weather? Sunny snow beats grey rainy any day.

7 2017-05-31 23:21:16 - DG

The writer has taken a few broad generalizations about Portland and used them to create a scenario of doom and gloom that I don't see in Portland. For example, the phrase, "Keep Portland Weird" has more to do with a conscious effort to keep small businesses and employers thriving in the Portland economy. There is an open resistance to large corporations like Wall Mart, fast food chains, and other mega-businesses efforts to take community profits from the citizens. Hence, there are many businesses with rather eclectic and imaginative products for sale. Of course, if you go out to the suburbs, you'll find all the large corporations alive and well, but within the city they are quite limited. Yes, there are places in Portland with a more european and artistic atmosphere than a person may find in other cities. If you want to sit outside and sip some coffee or listen to music, or take life at a slower pace, you'll find it here. You can also find business people, construction companies, sales people, and others living a Type A lifestyle. Like any other American city the highways are crowded during rush hour, and the generalization that nobody wears a suit and tie is vastly overstated. The young people I know in Portland work hard and play hard. They take full advantage of the ocean, mountains, rivers, and the city. They also have a great sense of humor. It may look like retiring from an outside point of view, but perhaps it's simply enjoying life rather than bowing to money.

6 2017-05-24 12:42:48 - Michael Kennedy

This x 1000. All those other cities can keep their corporate hamster wheels.

5 2017-05-18 07:06:27 - Lucy

Hmm . . . the last time I was in Ashland, a year ago, it was swarming with enough street people to make S.F., Seattle or Portland envious of its downwardly mobile authenticity. Younger people outfitted in the usual lost-child uniform: green duffle bag or backpack, filthy blond dreadlocks, vacant eyes, cigarette in hand, depressed dog by their side. Too bad Raymond Carver's no longer around to write about this demimonde, which inhabits other smaller cities like Eureka, Calif.

0 2017-05-12 17:52:45 - Cyclist

I lived in Portland for 11 wonderful years! Loved the people, loved the work and loved the climate. Still do and would move back in a "New York" minute. Fortunately, I can do most of my work with companies located in PDX via telecommuting. (Thank to Oregon's family oriented work life.) When my family obligations in the Southeast US come to an end, I will happily return to Portland. Until then, I want everyone who reads this article, believe that this is a rainy city with few job opportunities. I want to be able to return to my city and my career, and I don't want other folks flocking there and crowding me out.

5 2017-04-27 10:46:44 - Former tech exec

Have you looked at the rents in New York or San Francisco these days? They are two or three times higher than in Portland! You can still buy a decent house in Portland for 300k-500k. Double or triple that in other West or East Coast cities. Public education is not so disasterous here (except for the large class sizes in some schools) and 85% of the population still sends their kids to public schools. Not so in California.

My community of Lake Oswego raises 2-3 million dollars a year for the public schools with a population of only 35,0000. I 'd like to see any other commuity in the US do the same.

1 2017-04-15 06:01:44 - Christine Wynne

Accurate comparison. I lived in Austin 25 years ago...and before, too. Now that I'm retired, I live in Portland, as do many former Austinites. To get a career going, I had to leave Austin--which used to be a common phenomenon. It's the hip-large-town problem: Invariably, you keep moving from low-cost apartments to lower-cost apartments (or little houses), because the developers, lured by opportunity, drive up the costs. The creative types are pushed out, the area's zeitgeist changes to Chain Town normalcy, and that once-desirable town becomes the unappealing place you describe. It's may happen to Portland, but not today. News: Unemployment in Portland has risen. Cute, humanistic town, great for retirees! I hear the same is true of areas near Austin...and I don't mean Houston.

1 2017-04-02 14:13:23 - lexicron

Indeed, Portland has more than its share of quacksters and purveyors of snake oil. And the latest vote against fluoridation (there have been others IIRC) was just sad. Moreover, wasn't it a lopsided 60 to 40 percent who voted against protecting their neighbors' children's teeth? The city has many great qualities, but it's also one of America's Ground Zeroes for the environmental and anti-medical temperance movements, which is why a local lobbying group is suing to block mountain biking on Mount Hood.

1 2017-03-26 05:17:49 - Cyclist

I wrote about Portland's robust system of community engagement in a book on community governance. The amount and effectiveness of civic involvement in Portland has impressed me for decades. The only thing I can't understand is their weird biological conspiracy fears that still keeps them from flouridating their water, which undoubtedly hurts their oral health. Otherwise, I am confident Portland will have enough engaged citizens to keep their city vibrant for years to come.

0 2017-03-16 08:01:59 - Paul from Upper-upper Manhattan

I think by hitting buttons like "Keep Portland Weird" lyrics from the Portlandia opening theme and "kombucha the writer is lazily tapping into peoples assumptions when seeing anyone with a beard and tattoos. I know people in Brooklyn that are still paying for cocktails with FEMA checks post Sandy and need I say more about Austin perhaps entertaining a similar citizen. This is a fairly pervasive societal condition in America. You might want to concentrate on Portland's City Council who seem to be running the city as if it's 1972. The road tax comes to mind, along with a myriad of embarrassing situations an over worked spokesman for the city has to explain to the local media. An economy is emergent in cities from Tucson to New Orleans and as some people have mentioned it's being undertaken by people who don't necessarily desire to work in a cubicle.

8 2017-03-12 23:24:50 - Mark

Hey, you Portland kids! Get off my lawn!

Seriously, move out of there and be unhappy, like the rest of us!

20 2017-03-09 10:56:27 - Curious

Portland has one problem that really, really constrains its job market. Its ruling class is even more boorish and worthless than the ones you find in other cities. If you don't believe me, go to The Chart House or the Portland City Grill or maybe The Heathman Hotel. Really, really lame people. And the sad fact is that the love most have for the city means that even more than in the rest of the country, these ruling class people get a pass from the scrutiny they deserve.

The article alludes to some of these dynamics that make life in PDX less fun that it should be: namely the divergence between GDP per capita in the area and median personal income. GDP per capital is the arithmetic mean and includes the rents captured by the wealthy. Personal income measures are medians and much more indicative of the typical person's life. Basically, Portland has been much too kind to its wealthy and way, way to hard on its working classes. Fixing that should make the job market much more vibrant.

Here's another way to put it: Portland needs to get over the idea that tattoos, piercings, polyamory, and composting make it counter-cultural. Changing people's relationships with power and money would be really counter-cultural. Start re-imagining how people live and which tabs the community should and should not pick up. But as long as the community picks up the tabs for the wealthy there, things are only going to get worse.

79 2017-02-17 19:45:05 - Winthrop Smith

OK, first: Louisville, Kentucky?! What's the story there?

Also: San Francisco is 10 hours by car from Portland. The cities are not "neighbors."

Finally, and most important: What if there is a whole class of educated people who simply don't want to work like ants for 50 years and still have no guarantee (or even a decent chance) at a comfortable retirement? What if creating a place where two people can get by on a barista's pay is the whole point? And what if keeping out the Silicon Valley hustlers and the bank-shot rent-seekers is the end, and not merely the means to it?

Seriously. Louisville.

266 2017-02-05 07:33:29 - Ed The Rabbit

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