Quirky Attracts College Educated Young Adults

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Young college grads are moving to Portland to create a life in a place with the attributes they like."Portlandia" has added anecdotes to flesh out Portland's quirky reputation, but what may not be so quirky is the city's attraction of young, college-educated adults.

In an article inThe Washington Post, local economist Joe Cortright says data disputes the "Portlandia"-perpetuated view that young adults come to Portland to retire. Cortright says the unemployment rate for 25-to-34-year-olds with college degrees in Portland is 4.8 percent, which he claims is lower than comparable rates in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta or New York.

That Portland is a young person's mecca is borne out by statistics showing the city added 34,545 young college graduates since 2000, which as a percentage of growth outstrips New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

It appears to be true, Cortright says, that young people move to Portland without a job. That's because, he explains, they are coming here to create a future life in a place with the attributes they like — a compact downtown, cultural amenities, public transit options, proximity to nature and good food.

The Post article mentioned one Portland business that provides space to would-be entrepreneurs to create prototypes of their products and suggested there is a budding "cottage industry in helping people launch cottage industries."

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is quoted as applauding the arrival of new young bloods who bask in and extend the sharing economy. This is a generation willing to share everything from cars to tools to bikes. They want an authentic experience in a place where they can visit the farm that grew the food on their table.

People commuting from Keizer and Newberg to work in Portland may not share that zeal for the sharing economy, but the newcomers may be reaching critical mass as a new form of economic diversity for Portland. They also may be people voting with their feet who want to put down roots somewhere where other people share their values.

Outsiders and even many Portlanders may shake their head that former City Hall parking spaces have been converted to a community garden growing Swiss chard. But the economic impact of a continuously growing stream of educated Millennials may be headed toward shaking up the status quo of a city known for its bridges, park blocks and brewpubs.