Why does the Port of Portland develop industrial land?

Aerial image of the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers and the Port's Rivergate Industrial Park

When you think about what ports across the country do, what images come to mind? The first picture might be of cranes swinging over ships docked at marine terminals, which help move goods and products across the ocean. Or perhaps you think of the beloved PDX airport – a different sort of port, which moves people and products via air.

What you probably didn’t picture was a set of buildings on land, but an image like that should come to mind when you think about the Port of Portland. Our port revitalizes and develops industrial land. In fact, we own the most industrial land in the state of Oregon.

You might be asking: how did that happen?

Here are three reasons we’ve developed land for more than 60 years – supporting trade, local growth and job creation.

Manufacturing and industrial jobs fuel our cities

A thriving city offers a diverse range of jobs to meet the skills and expertise of the people who live there. Land that’s zoned for industrial development is needed for good-paying jobs that have lower barriers to entry, which are critical in any big city.

Industrial uses are typically clustered because they have common needs – access to critical transportation corridors and most are as distant as possible from residential communities. Each of our properties benefits from quick access to Portland’s comprehensive transportation system of ocean shipping, transcontinental railways and highways, river barging and domestic and international direct air service.

This brings benefits to the region as well. Each time industrial development projects are completed at port facilities – diversifying our local economies – we see more employment opportunities and tax revenues for cities, counties and the state, and more resilient communities. In fact, a recent economic study found that Port properties created nearly 31,000 jobs and generated $1.5 billion in income.


We know how to develop land in a sustainable way

We know how to take on large development projects in a way that advances economic prosperity and protects the environment. Often, industrial land needs to be cleaned up and rehabilitated from its prior use – bringing the site up to approved environmental standards before any development takes place. The Port has decades of experience managing environmental cleanup efforts and wetland restoration sites. We started this work to ensure airport and marine operations weren’t disrupting local wildlife. We continue these important efforts on all Port properties.

Here’s just one example. We turned the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park, a 700-acre site, into a job center for the community. The land was formerly home to the Reynolds aluminum plant, and pollution from its previous life needed to be cleaned up so it could be put back into productive use. Alcoa led this work in partnership with the Port and a number of public agencies. During the cleanup, we set aside about half of the site for recreation, wetlands and natural space, including a multi-use trail stretching nearly two miles. The work to redevelop this site won the 2011 Phoenix Award, recognizing it as the top brownfield redevelopment project in the country.


Our region has a deep connection to trade

The Port of Portland was founded in 1891 to create a safe shipping channel for trade along the Columbia River. Nearly 130 years later, we continue to dredge the river each year for ocean-going ships, but we now move goods through land, water and air – handling around 11 million tons of cargo each year at our facilities.

Oregon is one of the most trade-dependent states in the country, and we’re one of just a handful of states that export more products than we import. That means businesses in this region rely on consistent access to international markets.

That’s where the Port can play a role. At its core, trade is about people. That’s why we focus on building relationships with local, national and global trade partners. It helps move our work forward – more importantly, it helps businesses in the region expand their networks. We often say that we strive to be more than a port. We’re a partner that leverages these relationships to help organizations and businesses grow and thrive.


Explore More

While industrial properties might not be the first image that comes to mind when you think of a port like ours, these developments projects are vital to our region’s economy. Throughout this month, we’re excited to take you behind the scenes of our Port properties, introduce you to some of our team members, and explore how our work is evolving to bring more benefits to our neighbors. Follow along here and on our Port social media channels.

A new project at the Gresham Vista Business Park

Read how the Port is working with local developers to bring more quality jobs to Gresham.