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From the President & CEO

Global trade revs job growth engines March 2015
By Sandra McDonough
As our city's name denotes, Portland's economy was built on a rich history of trade. In time, we have evolved from a maritime port to a multimodal transportation hub for the West Coast, and our region's dependence on the import and export of goods and services remains just as critical today as it did in the beginning. In fact, Oregon is the ninth most trade-dependent state in the nation with an increasing array of global markets at our doorstep. As we rebuild from the Great Recession, international trade, especially in agriculture, manufacturing and the service sector, will play a more important role than ever bringing economic vitality and family-wage jobs to our area.

There is a deeply rooted connection between international trade and middle income jobs here. Currently, nearly half a million jobs in Oregon are tied directly or indirectly to, or are supported by, international trade. Trade-related employment also tends to grow faster than total employment and on average, workers in export-related jobs earn 18 percent more than those in other areas. Those good jobs bolster the local market. 

Yet these statistics also illustrate that the impact can be significant if any part of our trade-based economy takes a wrong turn. Earlier this month, the Portland area lost 657 direct jobs, $33 million in wages, $83 million in business revenue and $12 million in state and local taxes when Hanjin Shipping withdrew from the Port of Portland's Terminal 6 facility, a decision that clearly was related to the long-standing labor dispute that has adversely impacted all the major West Coast ports for some time.  And those numbers don't count the ripple effect through the rest of the economy. While I'm confident port leadership will recover from the loss of Hanjin, it will take time, and in the meantime jobs, wages and tax revenues are lost to our region.

So what can we do to ensure a trade-based economic future comprised of well-paying jobs? It starts with an understanding of our economy. In January 2015, the Pacific Northwest International Trade Association (PNITA), a part of the Portland Business Alliance, the Port of Portland, and other partners launched a Year of Trade in Oregon campaign to raise awareness for the region's reliance on strong international trade from large corporations to small businesses. To learn more and to attend monthly events focused on different aspects of trade, visit

And we must keep an eye on public policies impacting trade. During the upcoming legislative session, we should prioritize global competitiveness through local infrastructure investments, tax policies, and an ample supply of industrial land and skilled labor. Equally important are national trade agreement proposals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which seeks to open new markets, grow businesses and jobs, and introduce more customers around the world to all that Oregon has to offer.

With 95 percent of the world's customers outside the United States, Oregon and the Portland-metro workers have much to gain or lose in the global marketplace. It is incumbent on us all to help ensure the story of post-recession prosperity and middle income job growth is our story.
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