From Oregon Economic Development Guide 2022

The “Weird Little City” That Could.

Portland skyline at dusk
Photo: Getty Images

by Ron Starner

Professional and business services jobs in Oregon reached an all-time high in November 2021 at 257,500, up 100 jobs from its previous record.

That figure continued to climb in December as professional and business service jobs registered a net gain of 1,600 in the final month of the year. That was the third fastest-growing sector in the state in December, trailing only leisure and hospitality jobs (up 4,100) and construction jobs (up 1,800).

“It’s gotten easier to convince people to come to our little corner of the Pacific Northwest. Welcome to our office in Portland, Oregon — the original.”
— Wieden+Kennedy, global media & advertising firm

The job gains came from a variety of sources, ranging from architecture, engineering and planning to marketing and design. Two corporate expansion projects in Oregon helped the state achieve its new record for employment in this category.

Environmental Science Associates (ESA), an environmental consulting company, announced in late 2021 that it’s expanding in the Pacific Northwest by opening a new office in Bend. Toth & Associates Inc., an engineering firm based in Springfield, Missouri, announced that it was opening a new office in Portland. 

“We’ve been working with several clients in the Pacific Northwest, and Toth is invested in the communities where our clients live and work,” said Erin Rex, marketing coordinator for Toth. “After working with clients in that area for a few years, we have decided to invest in that area.”

ESA and Toth are emblematic of what’s happening across Oregon. Over the past 10 years, business services experienced 32% employment growth in the Beaver State. These jobs range from professional and technical services like architecture and engineering to company management and customer support. The category also encompasses jobs like consulting, advertising, public relations, graphic design and market research.

A State Full of Household Brand Names

According to Business Oregon, 9,852 establishments in business services employ 90,548 people across the state. These workers earn an average annual wage of $78,038. The largest sub-categories of employment in this sector are professional and technical services (43,739 jobs), company management (34,267), and customer support (12,543).

Their average annual wages range from $89,890 for those in company management to $78,781 for those in professional and technical services and $43,065 for those in customer support.

These business establishments include some of the best-known names in the industry. CH2M, an employee-owned global engineering company, was founded in Corvallis and today employs more than 26,000 people worldwide.

Wieden+Kennedy, one of the largest independently owned advertising agencies in the world, is also based in Oregon. Their website says it all: “Wieden+Kennedy was established in 1982, when two guys quit their day jobs to follow a client that made running shoes with a waffle iron. Dan Wieden likes to say that when we started, no one in their right mind wanted to come to this weird little city on the banks of the Willamette River.

That’s been a driving force in shaping who we are as an agency today. And thankfully, it’s gotten easier to convince people to come to our little corner of the Pacific Northwest. Welcome to our office in Portland, Oregon — the original.”

Oregon also boasts loads of jobs in company management. Household names like Daimler Trucks, Wells Fargo, Vestas and Iberdrola employ tens of thousands of people in the state.

Why Do These Firms Call Oregon Home?

There are many reasons why these employers choose Oregon, but the biggest one is that their employees love it here, and the companies love it too because the cost of doing business in Oregon is lower than most other states. With no state sales tax, companies can purchase millions of dollars in equipment and save a ton of cash.

With remote working now becoming the norm for many offices, companies can take advantage of good deals on office space in Portland and other markets in Oregon.

9,852 establishments in business services employ 90,548 people in Oregon. They earn an average annual wage of $78,038.
Source: Business Oregon

According to Kidder Mathews, asking lease rates remained stable in Greater Portland in the fourth quarter of 2021, reporting $28.00 per sq. ft. full-service as landlords offer concessions to maintain rental rates. Major office projects underway in Portland include 503 on Tenth (269,908 sq. ft.) and Block 216 (169,188 sq. ft.). In total, 812,755 sq. ft. remain under construction.

The near-term outlook for the office sector in Greater Portland is positive, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. “Movement across the metro should gradually improve in 2022 as tenants who have been in temporary spaces or worked from home 100% of the time will need to make decisions on office requirements,” the Fed stated. “Portland’s suburban markets that offer buildings with amenity packages and a vibrant mixed-use offering should continue to drive demand in the following quarters.” 

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


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