The Heritage and Future of Portland’s Industrial Heartland

January 2008, Prepared by Carl Abbott

Portland is one of a handful of U.S. cities whose riverside location is nearly as important to prosperity and growth today as it was a century ago. The water, rail and energy complex that converges around the lower Willamette River has long supported several industrial sectors, especially primary metals, machinery and equipment manufacturing, distribution and logistics.

Unfortunately, however, the vast majority of the general public isn’t familiar with Portland’s industrial heart – its history, its function, its importance. If there is a public image of Portland’s working waterfront and heavy industry, it tends to be about problems, such as the Superfund designation or the environmental costs of maintaining the navigation channel.