Portland Wants To Help, And Pretty Much Everyone But W+K Needs Help

Last night, I listened to Dan Wieden tell stories about his illustrious career at Jimmy Mak’s, the Pearl District jazz club. My full report is available on AdPulp, but I’d like to use this space to pursue an answer to a question from an audience member that Wieden failed to sufficiently address.

The question came from Sarah Harpole, a Senior Project Manager at Portland Development Commission, the city’s economic development arm. She asked Wieden how the city might better serve W+K and other creative firms in the city. Wieden said, “That would be a good idea.” An uncomfortable silence followed. I was sitting near Harpole, so after the talk I mentioned that I’d be happy to address her question.

This morning when I searched for the words, “Portland Creative Class” I found a page on PDC’s site devoted to the topic. There is some good data on this page (see below), but not much in the way of an argument for using our services.

  • 1,500 firms and a total of 14,000 employees.
  • Revenues of $2 billion and a payroll of $976,808,000.
  • Average creative services wage $66,663/year compared to regional average wage of $40,639.
  • Greater percent of freelancers or self-employed professionals than other industry clusters.
  • More than half of the state’s graphic design firms are concentrated in the Portland metro area.

My suggestion to Harpole and the city is to build on this good start. Develop a Portland creative class brand and launch a site (and a campaign) that makes the case for employing Portland-based firms. It’s not an original idea. Savannah, GA, for instance, supports local firms with their Creative Coast initiative. Unlike Savannah, Portland is well known for being attractive to well-educated, young workers. But that doesn’t mean we can leave it at that.

Consider the work Rick Turoczy performs on behalf of the city’s tech community. He’s a one man publicity machine for his industry and there’s little doubt he’s creating value for the companies he reports on. The city could pretty easily adopt Turoczy’s Silicon Florist model, staff it with an editor and fund it properly so said editor can pay writers to report on the entire scope of creative industries, and Portland businesses within those industries.

Naturally, I’d be honored to work with the city on a project of this nature.

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