More than 1,255,369 people (and 105,753 businesses) contribute to the greater Portland area’s economy. But have you ever wondered about the City of Roses’ heaviest hitters?
Consider this Portland Business 101 — your guide to the nine key industries and five top employers of our region.
Note: When we say the greater Portland area, that refers to Southwest Washington’s Clark and Skamania counties, and Oregon’s Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Columbia, and Yamhill counties.
The key industries
There are nine key industries in the greater Portland area, based on data from Greater Portland Inc, a regional public-private partnership dedicated to creating and expanding jobs and driving tangible regional prosperity, plus the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We’ve listed them in order of employment numbers.
Healthcare | 108,450 employees
Between the area’s hospitals and support occupations (think: physical therapists, pharmacy aides, and phlebotomists), keeping people feeling well is a popular career choice.
Computers and Electronics | 41,400 employees
All systems are a go in the Silicon Forest, the home to industry giants like HP, Siemens, and Tektronix. Semiconductors are a particular specialty here, which help power vital technology around the world.
Software | 35,264 employees
A well-established ecosystem of incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces lays the groundwork for strong support systems in this sector, which is projected to grow 29% over the next five years.
Design and Media | 33,000 employees
With great quirkiness comes great creativity. Portland and its surroundings are a hub for innovative talent, including architecture firms, advertising agencies, and video production studios like Laika. All told, this group represents $4.2 billion in economic output.
Food and Beverage | 27,700 employees
We’re... nom, nom, nom... No. 1. From farm-to-table cuisine to its brewery lifeblood, our region’s restaurants always show well on national lists, attracting foodies from far and wide. Entrepreneurs are busy in the kitchen too, with backing from local investment programs like Oregon Angel Food.
Metals and Machinery | 22,600 employees
Less headbanging, more clanging. Think: specialized products like Freightliner Trucks, pocket knives from Leatherman Tool Group, and lab-grown diamonds from Element Six. Four ports in the region, including deep-water docks in Portland and Vancouver, handle 30+ million tons of cargo a year — a huge boon for this category.
Apparel and Outdoor | 21,000 employees
Verdant forests, snowy mountain peaks, pristine rivers — with such diverse natural testing grounds available, it’s no surprise that brands like Nike and Columbia Sportswear have their headquarters here. When it comes to producing footwear patents, Oregon puts its foot down on the top spot.
Climate Tech | 14,400 employees
Oregon has plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040, and there are ambitious plans in place to get us to a more sustainable future. The nation’s first bachelor’s degree in renewable energy (2008) was offered at Oregon Institute of Technology, which has an outpost in Wilsonville. In 2021, six climate tech companies brought in $550 million in venture capital funding for their projects.
Bioscience | 7,800 employees
Synergy between industries opens the door to a healthy research and development field, where pioneers constantly push the cutting edge, from cancer treatments to genetics.
The major players
Now that we’ve established the major industries, we bet you’re curious about specific names. Whether you’re job hunting (or just “casually prospecting”), here are five major employers — all that employ more than 10,000 workers locally.
Providence Health & Services
23,100 employees | Health Sciences | Search jobs
From five nuns’ mission at Fort Vancouver in 1856, to operating hospitals across seven states (and having its name on Portland’s beloved soccer stadium), this not-for-profit Catholic health care system is one of several sizable employers in the space.
22,328 employees | Computers and Electronics | Search jobs
The world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer (by revenue) has its Logic Technology Development, Components Research, and Design and Technology Solutions groups based on a 450-acre property in Hillsboro, where it’s also planning a $3 billion expansion.
Oregon Health & Science University
18,048 employees | Health Sciences | Search jobs
Positioned at the top of Marquam Hill and at the forefront of medical research and education, Oregon Health & Science University encompasses high-profile organizations like Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the Knight Cancer Institute, each providing the best care in Oregon for their specific focus.
13,964 employees | Athletic and Outdoor | Search jobs
Depending on how well you know the story of the Swoosh, you may be surprised to learn that Nike’s global shoe empire began right in our backyard as Blue Ribbon Sports. From 1964 onward, the company’s co-founders Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight took their iconic waffle iron tread concept and ran with it.
13,120 employees | Health Sciences | Search jobs
Like other pillars of Portland health care, this group began when several hospitals with religious affiliations joined operations to better serve more patients.