Ready for Development

City of Tualatin

The community planned carefully over the last few decades to successfully position itself for ongoing growth – and continues to focus on the future. “Tualatin is not what it is by accident,” explains Mayor Lou Ogden.

The city has also managed to keep its small town charm, in spite of the development. “We work hard to maintain the small town feeling that attracts people to Tualatin,” Mayor Ogden explains. “Our unofficial tagline is that we have the small town feel, we have the close knit neighborhoods, and we have the big city amenities.”

Tualatin’s approximately 24,000 employees are most concentrated in the industry clusters of advanced manufacturing; health care; corporate and professional services; wood, paper, and printing related businesses; and food processing and distribution. One of the top employers is Lam Research Corporation, a leading supplier of wafer fabrication and services to the semiconductor industry, which has spurred a significant number of supportive companies. Pacific Foods, a national niche-market processed food producer, is headquartered in Tualatin and serves as the anchor to additional food processing and distribution businesses. The city also has a major regional hospital and two large clinics. “All three of the major hospital networks [in the Portland area] have a substantial presence in Tualatin,” Mr. Ogden reports. As a result, there is a small, but growing medical device manufacturing industry. Tualatin’s core industries account for nearly $1.6 billion in value-added output annually; they also represent 57 percent of the local employment. The average wage in these clusters is $85,000 compared to $50,000 across the rest of Tualatin’s local economy.

Most of these industries settled in Tualatin relatively recently. “In 1970, our population was under 2,000,” Mayor Ogden points out. “Today we are 26,000. Pretty much everything that has occurred in Tualatin has occurred in the last 30 or 40 years.” Much of the groundwork was laid in the 1980s. “There was substantial Japanese investment happening on the west coast, the Pacific Northwest particularly. There was a wave of [investment] coming in.”

City officials knew that Tualatin was well positioned to take advantage of this wave and worked hard to secure the industries that they wanted. They set aside a large number of acres for development – and started construction. “We put in the water and sewer, the streets and gutters and sidewalks and made it development ready,” Mayor Ogden explains. “We absorbed that expense locally, whereas normally that would be an expense that the developer would have to front.” The risk paid off, and businesses began to pour into Tualatin. The first wave of companies encouraged even more companies to settle in Tualatin – a trend that continues to this day.

Tualatin also created a welcoming city center to make the community more attractive to businesses and residents. “There wasn’t really a downtown,” Mayor Ogden recalls. “We wanted to make a center, a heart of a great community.” In response, the City built Tualatin Commons, a manmade lake surrounded by urban development. Tualatin is typically market driven, but this project was tightly controlled to ensure that the project resulted in the ideal mix of commercial and residential space, from hotels and retail to offices and condominiums. It was a groundbreaking concept. “We created this mixed use, downtown environment in 1992, when mixed use was not even a term being used. Not only was it not being used, it was challenging to even get it financed.” Twenty years later, the trailblazing project remains an anchor for the community and the site of festivals, farmers markets, and other events. “It is a centerpiece of the community.” Yet, Tualatin’s downtown visioning isn’t complete. Tualatin is looking to expand on its past successes to develop a downtown vision that will continually add more vibrancy, attract the millennials and the creative class to the suburbs, and cultivate a new generation of business and civic leaders.

More recently, Tualatin built a commuter rail to make travel easier for residents. “It is a suburban commuter rail,” Mayor Ogden explains. “Not like on the east coast, where the commuter rail goes into the city. This goes along the peripheral of Portland and connects the suburban towns together.” With that system successfully in place, the community is now in the process of evaluating additional high capacity transit and local bus service between Southwest Portland and Tualatin. “We are really trying to expand our transit service and accommodate a balanced mix of development that will benefit from a more integrated system.”

There is also plenty of land available for incoming businesses to utilize – an unusual plus in the region. “Oregon has a very draconian land use structure,” Mayor Ogden explains. Under Oregon law, each of the state’s cities and metropolitan areas is surrounded by an urban growth boundary designed to control urban expansion onto farm and forest lands. “The greater Portland area has one continuous boundary that all 25 contiguous cities share,” Mr. Ogden reports. “You can’t build outside that boundary. So you literally have high density development on one side of the street and pastures or forests on the other side of the street.”

However, as opposed to cities surrounded by development on all sides, Tualatin benefits as a city on the periphery of the urban growth boundary when the region increases in size. “We happen to be on the edge of that urban growth boundary, so we have the benefit of being able to expand, whereas the other cities surrounded by development on all sides can’t increase their footprint. So we have taken in more than a thousand acres on our south side and designated them for job growth centers. Over the next decade it will be among the largest land mass in the whole Portland metropolitan area for employment growth.”

Tualatin is ready to help any business that wants to come and take advantage of this land. “We work hard to make sure that we have a planning and permitting process that gets high quality investment, high value investment,” Mayor Ogden says. “We try to facilitate development rather than being a road block to it.”

As a result, Tualatin is experiencing another wave of economic growth. Currently, there are eight speculative industrial buildings that are in the development review process. These buildings will bring over 600,000 square feet of industrial space to Tualatin for future businesses. In addition, a new 26 acre shopping center is under construction near the heart of downtown Tualatin. It will be the home of the region’s first Cabela’s sporting goods store, New Seasons Market, HomeGoods, LA Fitness, and numerous restaurants.

Tualatin is also a member of Greater Portland Inc. (GPI), a public-private partnership that helps companies expand and locate to the Portland-Vancouver area. Many of Tualatin’s neighbors are much larger, with populations hovering around 100,000, so Tualatin and 20 other smaller cities have joined forces in order to ensure that they are able to offer the services that businesses are seeking. As a result, companies looking to grow in Tualatin or relocate to Tualatin will find the information and support that they need.

People coming to take advantage of Tualatin’s business opportunities will find a high quality of life – especially for nature lovers. “The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful place,” Mayor Ogden points out. The City of Tualatin has over 200 acres of well-maintained parks, trails, and natural areas; it is not unusual to see blue herons, wood ducks, and even bald eagles on a lucky day right outside your office window. Employees can stroll through the woods or along the marsh during their lunch break. The Tualatin River also runs through town, providing plenty of opportunities for kayaking, fishing, and other water sports. In addition, several parks and preserves surround the city, including Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Hedges Creek Wetlands, Brown’s Ferry Nature Park, Graham Oaks Nature Park, and Coffee Lake Wetlands.

Remarkably, all of this nature is situated within a metropolitan area populated with nearly 2 million people, allowing Tualatin residents to enjoy the great outdoors alongside urban amenities. With Portland only 15 minutes down the highway, there are countless events and entertainment opportunities nearby. From professional sports and dance clubs to microbreweries, film festivals, museums, and concerts, Portland has something for nearly everyone; Tualatin itself has plenty to offer as well. One can spend the morning on the golf course, take in an afternoon wine tour, or enjoy a day at the spa following by a shopping spree at the upscale shopping center, Bridgeport Village.

Tualatin has worked hard to support development while simultaneously maintaining the community’s signature, small town feel. “We have small town charm, big town amenities,” Mayor Ogden summarizes. The city is encouraging “continuing development of a vibrant and attractive town center, [while] still honoring the more traditional mindset in terms of residential development. You can have the best of both.” This ideal mix continues to appeal to incoming businesses, and there is still plenty of land set aside for these businesses to occupy. “We have a lot of green fields, a lot of empty dirt to build upon. We are able to attract the next generation of innovative businesses and family wage jobs.”

October 20, 2017, 2:03 PM EDT

Wind on the Rise

In the world of renewable energy, wind power is growing fast. It is projected that 10 percent of the energy generated in the United States will come from wind farms by 2020. Offshore wind farms are a relatively new addition to the American energy market, but the technology has been well established in Europe and is now taking off state-side as well.