We just got back from Portland last week, and it was quite the interesting experience. I did a Bloomberg column about Portland as a boomtown, but I thought a few personal anecdotes might put a little more color on the week.
I consider these trips to meet with clients and others a visceral form of economic research – you can witness just how various regions are recovering and expanding with your own eyes. (I don’t want to become a “fluorescent light economist” whose worldly perspectives come only from within my own office). A favorite source of anecdotal evidence are the local taxi / Uber drivers – they know exactly how well or how poorly the economy is doing, and they are happy to give you the straight dope. I ask them on every single trip I take, anywhere in the country or the world, and they never disappoint.
Kris and I are longtime fans of the IFC show Portlandia, We were surprised just how Cinéma vérité the absurdist comedy is; some of the locals jokingly called it a documentary – and they were barely kidding. Every time I travel outside of NYC it’s a reminder how polite and genteel much of the country is; the people in Portland were lovely. You can easily forget this if you are in Manhattan 5 days a week. The food is great, as is the energy and the activity. Lots of open spaces with affordable (but fast rising) prices, and loads of outdoor activities to keep you busy.
I would be remiss not to mention that Oregon, like Washington and Colorado, have gone “all in” on marijuana legalization. There are about 90 weed stores in Portland, and all of them are apparently quite busy (I went into a few, but only to do some “economic research”). To a jaded New Yorker used to having to drink a can of beer out of a brown paper bag so as to hide the simple fact of an after work Stella, seeing legal marijuana – and people smoking it on the street – was both strange and revelatory.
As you might imagine, the politics are left of center. I learned that I am a member of the East Coast New York intelligentsia/media elite, and in that town I am often mistaken for a traditional Liberal (I’m not). However, in Portland, I am, apparently somewhere to the right of Ghengis Kahn.
Regardless, it is a delightful town in the midst of a full on economic boom.