Oregon economist Christian Kaylor says he can think of only one explanation for the migration into Portland: the quality of life.Kaylor says wages there are sometimes 20 percent lower than in Seattle or San Francisco. But people keep coming. In fact, Portland's appeal is part of why the city's unemployment rate tends to be about a point higher than the national average.
Portland keeps pulling in the brains while Pittsburgh doesn't let them get away. The point of commonality is that both regions have an oversupply of what firms want, skilled workers. That's why I'm bullish on Portland and Pittsburgh.
I stumbled upon the above NPR story via a blog post at the Oregon Business Report. The blogger remarks about all the talent available in Portland. The depressed wages and high unemployment are positive indicators, not negative ones. The last paragraph, unrelated to the talent migration, is what inspired my own post:
Anyway, when thinking about the path that led us to the Portland that is now the media darling. I always think about the downtrodden, blue-collar city of my youth that specialized in cheap, home-grown diversions. It was a great place to be a college student or aimless twenty-something even then, as rents were incredibly cheap, you could go to the Mission Theatre for free and then spend your few dollars on local beer. What more could you want? I think that these trends start slowly and then gain feedback momentum and this is where my consciousness begins – Portland in the early 80s. Looking back we look for big answers, but often the roots are humble.
I see a lot of Pittsburgh in that narrative and the reason why I am much more bullish on the Steel City than on the City of Roses. Pittsburgh can and will attract talent in droves, sooner than you think. As for Portland, it has a long way to go in developing talent. As Edward Glaeser recently remarked, talent can leave just as quickly as it arrived. That's something for a tech business to mull over when weighing relocation options.