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Focus on Portland, Oregon.

I want to share a Northwest secret with you: Portland, Ore., is a very livable city with low housing prices and high economic opportunities. While enjoying a spring Sunday brunch in the Nob Hill neighborhood of northwest Portland, I perused The Sunday Oregonian newspaper and was astonished by home prices in this and other Portland neighborhoods. Ample inventories of homes in the low $100,000 to $150,000 range were listed -- affordable values difficult to imagine in Seattle.

Visitor bureau pamphlets call the northwest Portland neighborhood a "magnetic mix of strolling, eating and shopping" in an urban village atmosphere bordered by unspoiled wilderness. The wilderness is found at the top of Nob Hill in Forest Park, with over 5,000 acres of wilderness and 70 miles of hiking trails -- the largest forested municipal park in the United States. This park is akin to Kincaid Park in Anchorage for its unspoiled serenity and workout potential.

Another Portland feature is its progressive light rail system. MAX light rail cars cruising slowly over city streets deliver travelers to work, home and events. The transit system includes a downtown transit mall that serves as a "hub" for virtually all bus routes.

Portland clearly favors foot travelers over automobiles. Easy to navigate for pedestrians, its bewildering maze of one-way streets is unforgiving to the novice Portland driver. One suggested activity: Walk to the Portland Saturday Market, an open-air market very similar to Seattle's Pike Place Market.

This city also holds wonderful economic opportunities for Northwest and Alaska business people. Eight Fortune 500 companies are based in Portland, including Nike. A host of high-tech firms, primarily hardware-related, have a large presence in the Portland area. Intel, manufacturer of the X86 microprocessor chip family used in personal computers, now has more employees in Portland than at its headquarters in Silicon Valley, Calif.

As for employment, First Interstate reports in a recent edition of Pacific Northwest Economic Indicators that Oregon employment grew a strong 2.4 percent in 1993. For free subscriptions to this publication, call (503) 340-8181. Similarly, unemployment was at 6.6 percent (November 1993), the lowest level since the end of 1991.

As far as infrastructure goes, Portland's industrial shipyards along its rivers hum with activity. Readers will recall that the Exxon Valdez was brought to Portland for initial shipyard repairs in 1989. Today, the port is undertaking a $1 billion capital expansion to modernize its facilities and get ready for the new trade wave expected from the "Pacific century."

If you're looking for recreation in the area, bring your golf clubs. Portland has over 50 municipal courses, something Seattle duffers are extremely jealous of. Also, do not miss the annual Portland Rose Festival, scheduled for June 2-26, 1994. After all, it's the reason Portland is called the "Rose City." For more information, contact the Portland/Oregon Visitors Association at (503) 275-9750 or (800) 962-3700.

ANOTHER NORTHWEST EVENT TAKES OFF

In early April, Boeing launched the new 777 jet airplane at its Everett, Wash., assembly plant. The 777 is unique in several ways. First, it was designed entirely on computer. No physical mock-up was built, saving vast sums on research and development. Second, the plane reflects Boeing's move toward becoming a "virtual corporation," where product cycles are shorter, customer input is sought, and high-quality products are easily customized to meet customer needs.

Boeing consulted with its major airline clients in designing the 777 and incorporated many innovative features. For example, each seat will have a video monitor for movies and commuter use. You can now receive a telephone call from your seat on the built-in telephone. And if you are tall, there is no need to tilt your head inward when sitting at a window seat to accommodate the curvature of the airplane's frame.

The 777 will begin certification test exercises in early June. United Airlines is scheduled to take delivery of the first 777 in mid-1995. For reprints of two outstanding 777 primers, read: "777 - A new airplane, a renewed Boeing," (The Seattle Times, (206) 464-2111) or "Boeing's New Era: Flying to the Future," (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, (206) 448-8000).

Former Alaska resident Harry Brelsford is a faculty member of Central Washington University and systems manager at the Washington Credit Union.
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Title Annotation:Northwest Links
Author:Brelsford, Harry
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Jun 1, 1994
Words:705
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