A Focus on Industrial Lands

While this analysis could have looked at a variety of employment land types, it focuses specifically on large industrial sites. Metro has identified a shortage of these sites in the regional industrial lands inventory. Many of the region’s largest and often highest-paying industrial firms are located on parcels 25 acres or more in size.

Such firms include high-tech manufacturing (Intel Corporation and Genentech), heavy manufacturing (Vigor Industrial, Gunderson, Freightliner), research and development labs (Oregon Health & Sciences University) and firms that support other business such as warehouses and shipping terminals. These employers create products or services that are sold outside of Portland-metro and bring new dollars into the region. These businesses are commonly referred to as “traded-sector” employers. With these employers come good, family-wage jobs and tax revenues that support critical public services such as schools, health care and law enforcement.

"We’re competing globally to retain, expand and recruit traded-sector companies and the quality jobs and wages they bring. The window of opportunity to win major investment is often short and very competitive. Building an inventory of shovel-ready sites is a key ingredient to positioning the Greater Portland region for long-term job creation."

Sean Robbins, Chief Executive Officer,
Greater Portland Inc.

The state of Oregon, the Portland-Vancouver region, the city of Portland and most of the region’s counties and cities all identify a similar universe of traded-sector business as the centerpiece of their economic development strategies.2 A successful strategy includes retention and growth of existing businesses as well as the recruitment of new traded-sector businesses. Although not all traded-sector firms require large parcels, nationally or globally scaled firms that can have a significant impact on regional economic growth – such as Intel, Genentech and Freightliner – do require large parcels.

The experience of state and regional economic development experts indicates that accomplishing our region’s industrial retention, expansion and recruitment strategy depends on the immediate availability of an adequate supply of well-located, market-priced and readily developable large-lot industrial lands.

This land inventory analysis provides a snapshot of the industrial land supply inside the Metro UGB and selected urban reserves established in mid-2011. The inventory can be used as a reference for monitoring and tracking changes and absorption of industrial land in the region and can also be used by Portland-metro municipalities as the basis for making informed land use and investment decisions around the supply, regulation and market readiness of industrial lands.

The market-based approach

This analysis started with a simple question: What is the inventory of market ready sites this region needs to be competitive in a global marketplace and successful in attracting large traded-sector firms to locate or expand here?

Business Oregon has extensive experience recruiting national and international traded-sector businesses into the state and the Portland-metro region. Their experience is that the majority of employers considering whether to locate in the region require sites where they can break ground within 180 days of site selection.

It is also important for the region to offer a number of potential sites for employers to choose from in order to receive serious consideration by site selectors. The fewer the number of sites available for immediate development, the lower the odds are that the region will be able to meet the new employer’s requirements.

Based on experience, Business Oregon has identified the characteristic minimum parcel size and other site requirements for most cluster recruitment targets. Most of these cluster industry recruitments require net developable sites of at least 25 acres with a number of clusters, such as globally scaled high tech, requiring much larger sites.

This analysis focuses on the net developable acreage, as some sites have a high number of gross acreage but limited area that would be suitable for an employer to build a facility.

To identify the inventory of market-ready sites in the region the project applied a series of filters from the perspective of potential employers. Starting with Metro’s 2009 Buildable Lands Inventory, supplemented with information from local jurisdictions throughout the region, the analysis identified parcels with the following characteristics:

  • Inside the UGB or in selected urban reserves
  • Zoned, planned, or, in the case of urban reserves, suitable for industrial uses
  • Containing at least 25 net buildable, vacant acres after accounting for constraints such as wetlands, flood plains and slope
  • Not set aside by existing firms for future expansion opportunities

Using Business Oregon and industry expertise, the parcels identified through this initial process were further analyzed as to their market readiness using sufficiency of infrastructure and transportation facilities, brownfield or environmental issues, need for land assembly, need for annexation and availability for lease or sale.

This more refined analysis resulted in an inventory of existing or potential industrial sites that were assigned a tier based on market readiness or estimated length of time before they can be developed. Tire 1 sites could be shovel ready within 180 days (six months). With sufficient resources and expeditious jurisdiction approvals, Tier 2 sites could be development ready in seven to 30 months. Sites that will require more than 30 months to be ready for development were designated Tier 3.6


Why the focus on traded-sector clusters?

Traded-sector employers export goods and services from the region and import revenue into the region. In the Portland region, many of these traded-sector firms are manufacturers. Economic development strategies focus on these traded-sector employers because they pay higher wages and can increase the wealth of the community.

A 2010 analysis by ECONorthwest for the Value of Jobs Coalition, 2010 Check-Up on the Portland- Region’s Economic Health, found that the average Portland-metro traded-sector wage was $53,000 in 2007, $14,600 greater than the average non-traded-sector wage. The analysis also found that traded-sector jobs accounted for 28 percent of the region’s total jobs and 35 percent of total payroll. According to a Business Oregon analysis in 2008, the average wage for the High Technology cluster was $82,000.3

The wealth generated by these traded-sector jobs circulates in the community, ultimately supporting supplier or service companies and neighborhood businesses. Larger traded-sector firms also seed entrepreneurs who spin out to create start-up firms that grow into larger firms. This process is what produces the economic clusters that are vital to the economic success of the region. Traded-sector firms also support public services directly and indirectly with higher wage jobs and taxable incomes, resulting in funding for schools, social services, parks and other critical public services.

What about Clark County?

Could the Portland-metro industrial land readiness issue be addressed by looking north to Clark County? Not according to a report recently issued by the Columbia River Economic Development Council, which found only 13 sites are available and it would take up to 12 to 18 months to get permits in place for construction. The report noted that the shortage of readily available land has already led some businesses to look elsewhere to grow, and could hamper the community’s economic recovery, according to local leaders.4

What do large-lot industrial developments add to the regional economy?

A 2010 Metro report found that 60 employers located on parcels of 25 acres or more accounted for more than 8 percent of the region’s total employment in 2006 or 65,500 jobs.5 A Business Oregon analysis of recent recruiting efforts found the economic impact per acre of large-lot developments varies depending on the type of company and ranges from $200,000 per acre for warehouse and distribution centers to $1.4 million per acre for clean tech manufacturing.


2 See for example: Business Oregon’s Strategic Plan May 2009; Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Region 2010-2011 Update; City of Portland Economic Development Strategy, A Five Year Plan for Promoting Job Creation and Economic Growth, 2009.

3 www.oregon4biz.com/dev/www/BOR/ The-Oregon-Advantage/Industry/

4 “Few places to build jobs,” The Columbian, Tuesday, January 10, 2012.

5 Metro 2009-2030 Urban Growth Report, Appendix 4, January 14, 2010

6 The Value of Jobs Coalition is working with the Regional Industrial Lands Study partners on a second phase of this analysis that will examine the costs and benefits of moving Tier 2 and Tier 3 sites into the Tier 1 level of readiness.