• Over the last several years, the Portland IT industry has been one of the most vibrant tech hubs in the U.S.
• IT hiring managers and tech pros who want to know how 2020 will shape Portland must consider a number of impactful trends.
• These include population increases, startup growth, marijuana business development, and more.
While 2020 might seem like a year destined for clarity, forming an accurate vision of the entire year isn’t easy. That’s because the Portland IT Industry is one of the most active and exciting in the country. It’s a positive distinction, but it also means that there’s a great deal of information to sift through. In order to help you understand what the area’s tech sector will look like in 2020, we’ve pinpointed the trends and news items that will shape the future.
Rather than representing a new trend, the drop in the IT unemployment rate is simply continuing a movement years in the making. The nation’s tech unemployment rate reached 1.3% this year, and that’s a 20-year low. Known as the Silicon Forest, Portland’s IT industry follows suit. For years, employers here have grappled with a skills shortage created when most talent is already employed. With Facebook, Apple, and Amazon opening data centers in the region and Intel set to spend billions on a new facility, it’s likely that the unemployment rate will continue to drop as hiring difficulties continue. In 2020, expect companies to further adapt by considering alternatives to hiring full-time employees. Solutions that will increase in frequency include contract talent, outsourcing projects, and consulting.
Oregon added 41,000 citizens over the last year and 400,000 since 2010, with Portland seeing the biggest gains in the whole state. Furthermore, 86% of this growth is the result of people moving here rather than births. The Silicon Forest is a veritable tech hub, and many of the individuals moving here are interested in technology industry jobs. While this can help IT hiring managers find talent, the number of tech companies opening their doors is also rapidly increasing. Portland’s tech movement is a big reason why Oregon is expected to be one of the fastest-growing states for job growth in 2020. Talent will continue to move here, but so will competition.
For those still unsure if Portland’s marijuana industry has a future, consider that one local marijuana startup was sold for $1 billion. This is an industry still in its infancy, and that means there’s a lot of opportunity. Cura Cannabis, the company referred to above, is now valued at $4 billion and worth more than all but three public companies in the entire state. At this point, it’s clear that the Pacific Northwest is a hub not just for technology, but for cannabis innovation. IT and the marijuana industry go hand in hand, as one helps the other grow. Legal weed is a cash-only business in the United States, and that’s spurred a number of startups to develop the technology needed to facilitate sales. One company, POSaBIT, allows customers to convert money into cryptocurrency at the point of sale. Last year alone, that technology processed $22 million in sales and amassed vast amounts of buying habit data at the same time. Organizations like this will keep popping up in the coming year, and they’ll need tech talent.
For years, Portland’s startup community has stood out as one of the most vibrant in the Cascadia megaregion. The area is a welcoming and supportive place for new ideas, and that will continue into 2020. Puppet, the city’s largest independent tech company, is doing its part by reserving space in its downtown headquarters to host two dozen startups in an incubator. At the same time, SheerID just raised $64 million in funding and expects to grow 450% in the next three years. Finally, there’s vacation rental management company Vacasa. It raised $319 million in its last round of funding and is valued at over a billion dollars. The company already has 5,000 employees, and with technology at its heart, it’s a business that’s set to grow even further. Everywhere you turn in Portland, there’s another startup hitting the scene providing new IT jobs, competing against established players, and making the city a better place to live.
While it has a long way to go, the proposal for a high-speed train system that can zip commuters throughout the Pacific Northwest at over 200 mph is very interesting for Portland’s IT industry. The most obvious impact would be that the creation of such a system will create thousands of jobs, many of which would be focused on engineering and technology. However, consider what will happen when all of the cities currently outside of a normal commuting range of Portland suddenly have easier access to the city. The implications for opening up the talent pool for Portland IT firms are massive. Plus, if you think networking is great here now, wait until the entire region is more easily connected. While this high-speed rail won’t be up and running during 2020, important decisions about its future will surely develop over the year.
Technology that allows us to look into a crystal ball and see the future does not yet exist, but we can study current and emerging trends that inform of us of what to expect. Based on a flurry of encouraging activity, the 2020 Portland IT industry is set to continue its positive momentum from the year before. IT firms and tech pros will continue to thrive here with more opportunities than ever before. It’s been a pleasure to watch our region’s tech scene continue to grow while improving the lives of our citizens, and that’s the most rewarding trend of all.