Despite being given the moniker “Silicon Forest”, the Portland high-tech industry has seen many notable ups and downs, while its closest [but much larger] neighbors, San Francisco and Seattle, have been growing exponentially for years. Last year, SureID laid off 376 employees over only a 3 month period. In August of 2015, there were 550 employees. Oregon Live Sales revenues fell quickly for the Company after it lost a major contract with the Navy when its “Rapidgate” system failed to properly identify job applicants with criminal backgrounds that should not be permitted access to military bases. San Diego Union Tribune The company subsequently sold its commercial business and changed its name to Fortior Solutions.
Nike, based in Beaverton, eliminated 1,400 jobs last year while other companies and much of the economy were making gains at a record breaking clip. It ended up outsourcing many of its infrastructure operations. The real shocker came two (2) years ago when Intel unexpectedly announced it would cut 12,000 jobs, 11% of its workforce. Job cuts followed the new construction of gigantic manufacturing and research facilities. The D1X research facility is 2.2 million square feet by itself. At about the same time, a new “Fab 42” fabrication plant was sitting unused and incomplete in Chandler, Arizona. AZ Central
Fortunes seem to be shifting towards Portland-area tech companies this year, however. Last month, Puppet announced a combined $42 million in new funding from several private entities. Just two days ago, Jama Software announced $200 million in equity investments funded by Insight Venture Partners and Madrona Venture Group. Vacasa raised over $100 million in October of 2017. A legal messaging, high-tech firm called Exterro received over $100 million in new investments last month as well. So far this year, about 20 start-ups have received new investment dollars. Portland Business Journal
Major technology firms are known to have visited Portland and subsequently moved on because the blocks downtown are simply not large enough. It looks like Amazon passed on Portland’s offer to build its second headquarters in the Pearl District early in the search process, though that wasn’t a great surprise. We are only 200 miles from Seattle. Then, there’s the infamous urban growth boundary (UGB), set in place by a law that was passed in the 1970’s, allowing urban growth only after periodic economic analysis. Metro Perhaps Portland is not the ideal location for all large high-tech firms, but it certainly has the attention of national and global investors, and has become a locus of innovation for start-up firms.