Oregon has long been recognized as a worldwide leader in the sports and recreation industry. The state boasts apparel giants, popular college and professional sports teams and an unrivaled range of venues and natural environments in which to recreate. All of these factors have created an economic ecosystem that supports thousands of small businesses, tens of thousands of jobs and consistently high wages. Such are the findings of Oregon: The State of Sport, a report supported by the OBI Research and Education Foundation, presented by U.S. Bank, and spearheaded by the Portland Business Alliance.
Though the sports, outdoor and recreation industries affect every region in the state, the report quantifies their benefits in three key areas. The Portland metropolitan area is home to Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Adidas North America and other industry leaders along with myriad smaller businesses that design, engineer and make apparel and equipment. It also hosts professional sports teams like the Portland Trail Blazers and Thorns as well as the venues in which they compete. Eugene and the University of Oregon produce designers, marketers and other talent for the sports ecosystem while supporting high-profile competitions, including the 2022 World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field. Finally, Bend has emerged as a destination for skiers, mountain bikers and outdoor-lifestyle entrepreneurs. Certainly, by focusing only on these regions, this report undersells the statewide impact of this diverse ecosystem, which makes its findings even more extraordinary.
Not only do the businesses within this ecosystem produce thousands of jobs themselves, but they support jobs in other industries. Each job in the sports and recreation ecosystem, in fact, supports 1.7 jobs in adjacent sectors. The Portland area in particular has become a destination for product designers, marketing professionals, engineers and creatives who keep the ecosystem running and growing. And despite the outsized role of industry giants, more than 80 percent of the ecosystem businesses in the Portland area have fewer than 20 employees.
This ecosystem is more important economically to the Portland area than similar ecosystems are to the Salt Lake City region, the Denver region and the Seattle region, all of which have a significant sports and recreation presence. Such industries provided 39 of every 1,000 jobs in the Portland area in 2019, which is 34% more than runner-up Seattle, with 29 of every 1,000 jobs. Portland also supported a far larger percentage of high-wage sports and recreation jobs, many of them in manufacturing, which is known for having positive economic benefits for workers.
“When we think of a healthy, prosperous and competitive Oregon that improves lives today and into the future, Oregon’s athletic, outdoor, team and recreation ecosystem is unquestionably a part of the story,” said OBI President and CEO Angela Wilhelms in a press release issued by the PBA. “The contributions made by companies small and large in this ecosystem are extraordinary, and we must continue to leverage this strength and use findings from this study to propel our entire state forward.”
Key indications of the Sasquatch-sized economic footprint of the sports and recreation ecosystem include:
- The employers in the regions the ecosystem studied provide 51,000 direct jobs.
- The ecosystem supports an additional 79,000 jobs, for a total of 130,000 jobs.
- The total economic output of those jobs is roughly $29 billion per year.
- Direct activity in the ecosystem generates almost $1 billion in annual state tax revenue.
- Average wages for creative and manufacturing jobs related to the ecosystem in the Portland area are higher than averages across all sectors. For example, in the Portland area, the average wage for sports-related manufacturing jobs in 2019, at $76,700, was 17% higher than the average wage in all sectors, $65,700.
- Job growth in the ecosystem between 2010-2022 was 36%, far higher than the 15% growth seen across all sectors.
To learn more about the economic importance of Oregon’s sports and recreation ecosystem, see the complete report here.