Chapter 4: Portland: Two Anchor Firms Seed the Silicon Forest
‘In the long run, a region that can develop businesses in the new technologies ensures its economic future. A regional economy can be compared to a forest. The large, mature trees stand out by their importance. But the source of future growth lies among the seedlings and young saplings.’ Miller and Cote (1985: 123) BEGINNINGS OF THE SILICON FOREST For much of the year, Portland is a rainy place, which some people find uncomfortable. Yet the rain is responsible for a lush vegetation of tall trees and verdant undergrowth. It is not surprising that Portland’s high-tech economy has been nicknamed ‘the Silicon Forest’. Although tracking its origin is rather difficult, this epithet has been used since at least the late 1970s (Francis, 1995). The roots of the Silicon Forest, however, go back even further to the 1930s and 1940s when a handful of electronics firms and a radio research facility located in the area. Today, the Silicon Forest is a very specialized high-tech economy. The region is home to major hightech firms that include Intel, Tektronix, Hewlett-Packard, and Xerox. To extend the metaphor, Intel and Tektronix represent the large, mature trees that anchor the forest. Over time, spin-off companies and new firms moving to the region have become the seedlings and young saplings noted in the quote above. Portland’s anchor firms were responsible for seeding the Silicon Forest because they have functioned as incubators of a variety of start-up companies. The region has managed to develop an ecosystem that supports...
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