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Investors Find a Hidden Gem in Portland, Texas

by Ron Starner

nnovative mixed-use developments are transforming Portland, Texas, from a sleepy small town into a destination of choice for expanding employers and working families.

Known primarily as a Coastal Bend bedroom community in the Corpus Christi metro area of South Texas, this rising city of 23,000 people on the Gulf of Mexico is experiencing its day in the sun thanks to a bevy of investors who believe in Portland’s potential.

No one is more bullish on Portland than McLeod Cobb Investments, which is developing a $100 million retail project anchored by a new Target store in the city. Called Oliver’s Way, the shopping center will feature the only new Target to open in Texas this year, along with national chains Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Raising Cane’s, Five Guys, Aspen Dental and Wells Fargo. The 128,000-sq.-ft. Target is slated to open this summer.

“We have two projects in Portland,” says Michael McLeod, partner and principal with McLeod Cobb. “We have a smaller project that we purchased in Portland seven years ago. It had a Kmart. We redeveloped that into a Chick-fil-A and shopping center. The new Target is part of a larger 45-acre site that we are developing on the highway into Corpus Christi.”

McLeod says he’s banking on Portland for several reasons: “If you want a good place for your employees to live, it’s Portland,” he says. “It is a very well-run city. It’s safe, it has great schools, and there are community events happening all the time. In fact, a new leisure district is being developed that will attract even more visitors.”

Called 5th and Elm, the new entertainment venue will feature a restaurant, a stage with capacity for 2,500 attendees, space for gatherings, and other fun elements. The City of Portland broke ground on 5th and Elm in March.

‘Building Community & Raising Families’

Did You Know“When you look at how Portland has grown, we are now the second largest city in the Coastal Bend,” says Portland City Manager Randy Wright. “From 2010 to 2020, we grew by 35% in population. That was largely due to the addition of $55 billion in industrial development within a mile of Portland associated with the Port of Corpus Christi. This industrial growth drives our economy.”

Through it all, says Wright, the character of Portland has not changed. “Portland has remained attractive for families buying homes,” he says. “We spend much of our time at the city trying to determine what our citizens want, and then we work to meet those needs and wants. We have many things that few communities our size have.”

That list of amenities includes a youth sports complex that annually hosts hundreds of tournaments and other athletic events. “Sports tourism is a big economic driver for us,” Wright says. “We host over 80,000 kids who come here annually to compete in various activities on our sports fields. We have all turf facilities.”

A town of 22,933 residents with a median age of 37.9, Portland forms a vital cog in the 450,000-person region known as the Coastal Bend. “Portland has historically been a bedroom community to Corpus Christi,” says Wright. “It takes about 10 minutes to drive from Main Street, Portland to downtown Corpus Christi. Our tagline is ‘Building Community and Raising Families.’ That is essentially what we do every day.”

With 3,000 residential lots in various stages of development, the city is poised to experience another growth boom, says Mayor Cathy Skurow. “We have always had a strategic plan for growth; and we take community input very seriously,” she says. “We have good relationships with the industries in the community, and they recognize the value of being a good neighbor.”

Skurow says Portland thrives because “people want to live in Portland. We have an outstanding school district. We are very safe, and our neighborhoods are walkable. Some are within walking distance of the beach; and we have beautiful parks.”

World-Class Health Care for Kids

Access to world-class health care is another draw. Driscoll Children’s Hospital, part of Driscoll Health System, provides one of the leading pediatric centers in the country. Located in Corpus Christi, Driscoll employs many nurses and physicians who choose to live and raise their families in Portland. Growth plans include a comprehensive health care campus in Portland. 

“We opened our doors in 1953. We employ around 100 people in the Portland area,” says Eric Hamon, president and CEO of Driscoll. “Our hospital is located in Corpus Christi, right across the Harbor Bridge from Portland. More than 120,000 children are served each year by Driscoll across the geographic footprint of 31 counties in South Texas. We have the ability to recruit top physicians from all over the country. Our chief medical officer was a doctor living in Arkansas. We recruited him to Driscoll a couple of months ago. He left Little Rock and moved to Portland.”

Parents like knowing that they don’t have to drive to Houston or San Antonio to see a specialist, says Hamon. “It’s rare to have a stand-alone children’s hospital outside of a metro area of 1.5 million people. We were the first to open an emergency room for kids. We are opening new clinics, and we are growing.” 

Signs of growth abound in Portland. Its average income has grown 9% annually to $105,000. Portland is now the largest city and largest retail hub in San Patricio County, which has 71,233 people. And when you include the county, more than 6,000 new lots are now available for housing.

With 5,000 new permanent jobs slated to be filled in the next few years at area industrial employers, the sky’s the limit for Portland, says the city manager, who adds, “For a site selector looking at us, Portland is on a growth slope going up and that will continue for the next seven to 12 years.” 



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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