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Portland Harbor helps keep businesses afloat

There can be economic ripple effects from business activity even if it’s relatively distant. In the case of the Portland Harbor, those ripple effects can be seen in a literal sense.

Although Seals Unlimited is located in Hillsboro, for example, it directly benefits from businesses located at the Portland Harbor. The company makes specialized rubber seals and moldings, and its customers include some of the manufacturers based at Swan Island.

The same is true for Omega Morgan, which is based in North Plains. The company, formerly known as Morgan Industrial, moves large pieces of equipment and big amounts of supplies. It has worked for many manufacturers around the world, including several in the harbor.

Seals Unlimited and Omega Morgan are just two of hundreds of companies located throughout the region that provide goods and services to businesses in the Portland Harbor, such as Vigor Industrial, which manufactures barges and repairs large ships. The two companies were identified in a study released last week that documents the regional economic impact of international trade and harbor-related businesses.

Compiling confidential data from five large harbor employers, researchers found they collectively spent 42 percent of their revenue on local goods and services. The study found that this spending supports approximately 4,000 jobs outside the harbor in the region.

For example, Vigor Industrial, a Portland-based shipbuilder with $500 million in annual sales, has more than 200 local suppliers, including chemists and health workers at its own medical clinic, said Fred Kiga, the company’s vice president for government affairs.

A map in the new study pinpoints where those five marine industrial companies buy local goods and services, showing large numbers in the northwest Portland industrial district, the inner-eastside industrial area, north Portland and the Columbia Corridor. There also are many in the industrial belts in Clackamas and Tigard. Some of the suppliers are Platt Electric, Parr Lumber, Elmer’s Flag and Banner, Rodda Paint and even Elephants Delicatessen.

The study was sponsored by the Value of Jobs Coalition, which includes the Port of Portland, the Portland Business Alliance, Associated Oregon Industries and the Oregon Business Council. It is one of a series of studies by the coalition analyzing the state and regional economy.

Titled “International Trade & the Portland Harbor’s Impact on the Portland-metro and Oregon Economy,” the study found that $42.2 billion worth of goods were exported and imported in 2012, supporting 490,000 jobs in the state. Wages for trade-related jobs are 19 percent higher than non-export related jobs, the study found.

The report was released at the PBA’s monthly breakfast forum on Oct. 16. Business and civic leaders at the forum stressed how such jobs are key to supporting the region’s quality of life by generating taxes that pay for public services.

Sean Robbins, chief executive of Greater Portland Inc., suggested business leaders start citing that “x-number” of new jobs can translate into paying for x number of teachers in the classroom, or “x-numbers” of bike lanes.

The study also pointed out the continuing growth in Oregon services sold outside the country, such as software, industrial process royalties, research and development and green building experts.

“We’re now exporting over $8 billion in services every year,” said Doug Badger, a trade expert who works for Quinn Thomas Public Affairs.

While Oregon exports are now growing rapidly after sagging during the recession, the Portland area is dependent on one sector — semi-conductors and other computer-related electronics — for nearly 40 percent of its exports. A huge chunk of that comes from Intel.

“We’re overly dependent on that one industry,” Robbins said.

However, more than 5,000 Oregon companies are now exporting goods and services, and the overwhelming majority of those are small- and mid-sized businesses.

Some 27 percent of Oregon exports come from machinery, chemicals, and transportation equipment, and another 9 percent comes from wood products.

The latest study is available at valueofjobs.com.

— Portland Tribune

reporter Steve Law

contributed to this story.




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