A west coast destination for visitors and home to people who love the outdoors, local business and keeping it weird, Oregon is a state filled with a blend of entrepreneurs, mountain men, surfers, fishers, fitness geeks and tech nerds. The eclectic mix of people causes for an interesting combination of small businesses. In 2014, a Biz2Credit study said that Portland, Oregon was one of the best small business cities in the United States.
It had the second highest average revenue for businesses with under $10 million average revenue and less than 250 employees, and its not hard to understand why. People in Oregon, especially in Portland, love their brunch at a local restaurant, thrive for a government that is hands on and spend just as much money buying goods from local etsy stores as they do on technology.
The quirks that leave Portland, and in turn Oregon, with a “hipster” reputation are also what make it a mecca for small business and thriving local companies. Here, even the politics of the city keep away strip malls filled with big-box storefronts and support the locally started, locally owned shops, restaurants and businesses. If support is what’s missing in your current business, a move to Oregon might be just what you need, and in its five key industries could be where you find your next business opportunity.
Oregon's Advanced Manufacturing
Oregon’s advanced manufacturing industry has continued to grow and prosper, and many of the firms here are competitive with other companies around the world. According to Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, more than 10 percent of private-sector jobs in Oregon are in manufacturing. From medical products to trucking, the industry is extensive and is a part of every Oregon community, no matter the size.
Along with the usual products a person thinks of with advanced manufacturing, like tools and instruments, food processing is also key in the state. Artisanal products like wine, cheese and craft beer are just a few of the processed products that are valuable and profitable, both locally and nationally.
Oregon is a leader in Clean Technology
Renewable energy is a hot industry in most states, but Oregon has a competitive edge because of its varying landscapes and the culture of the state’s residents. Developing green technology for Oregon isn’t just taking advantage of solar or wind energy, it’s also about energy efficiency and building, and wave energy.
Often times when one thinks of developing cleaner resources and going green, the idea of recycling and building green is ignored - but not in Oregon. There’s public support, business advantages, energy tax credits and tons of natural resources throughout the state.
Here, there are more LEED certified green buildings per capita than any other state, which makes it a hub for green builders, architects and engineers. By 2025, 25 percent of the state’s power must be renewable energy, making the state’s approach to clean technology a long-term economic development plan.
Some of the major green businesses include SolarWorld and Vestas, which shows the potential and importance of clean technology in this region. Oregon is the largest manufacturer of solar wafers, cells and modules in the United States and there is an estimated capital investment of $1.5 billion its solar projects.
There are currently 3,100 MW(a measurement of wind) of operational wind farms in Oregon. And the coastline is making waves in the clean technology world too - literally. Oregon is the leader in wave energy in the U.S. and is host to one of two National Marine Renewable Energy Centers in the nation.
Forestry & Wood Products
As the largest producer of lumber in the United States, Oregon is an internationally known leader for forest manufacturing. Fifty percent of the state, about 30.5 million acres, is made up of forest. With such a huge amount of resources and the streamlining of wood product production, there’s tons of room to move and dabble in this industry. It employs about 44,000 people and universities even help future leaders specialize with forestry schools and education.
The beauty of forestry and wood is the diversity in specializations that a person can start a business in. Home building products like lumber and home fixtures like doors are exported worldwide and these products create at least $1 billion in exports.
The high success is from the expertise in production and the wood quality. The longstanding forestry industry isn’t too far behind with $138.5 million in exports. The industry has grown over the years to include sustainability, biomass generation and manufactured housing. Whether it’s wood production or forestry, it’s a booming business.
Don’t let the wood or green industries fool you - the state isn’t just filled with nature-based industries. Oregon is a place where small, high-tech companies are making a big name for themselves. The tech industry employees more than 100,000 residents at almost 11,000 firms! Whether it’s software, bioscience or a semiconductor, the specializations of technology in Oregon are thriving.
Research centers like The Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute and Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute help business owners here to trust that there will be future employees to contribute and grow their companies to become successful, worldwide leaders.
Intel has it’s largest global manufacturing facility in the state, and with almost 60,000 employees, it’s the largest private employer in Oregon.
Outdoor Gear & Activewear
With such a huge amount of forest covering the state and such an active outdoor lifestyle whether it’s along the coast or in the mountains, it’s no surprise that activewear is a flourishing industry in Oregon. Global giants like Columbia Sportswear and Nike keeps roots in Oregon for a reason - it’s a goldmine for companies who specialize in outdoor gear.
With business-minded entrepreneurs all over the state, the ability to test gear in their backyard and an understanding of what consumers who live an outdoor lifestyle want, it makes sense to join this continually growing and thriving industry. For larger companies, the proximity to the outdoors isn’t the only helpful part of Oregon’s location - it’s location near the Pacific Rim allows for easier access to working with counterparts in Asia and Europe.
The outdoor gear and activewear business isn’t just for manufacturers or brand names. The shop local mindset of oregon and need for places to buy this wear means that a retail business can be super successful. When beginning a new brand is intimidating, starting a smaller retail business like a sports store can be less scary and could potentially be very successful.
Oregon in general
A life in Oregon revolves around the outdoors in almost every way. Whether it’s producing the newest line of running shoes, contributing to the lumber industry or even creating the most innovative green technology in the country, there’s no way around nature in the west coast state. Local products and companies thrive, but so do globally known businesses. If you enjoy an outdoor, active lifestyle and feel confident in owning a business that is rooted in that, then Oregon could be the best place for your next business.