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Report shows nuanced story of continued growth in Oregon tech industry

The tech industry continues to have an outsized impact on Oregon’s economy, contributing over $9 billion in GDP. That’s the high-level result shown in the most recent report from a Technology Association of Oregon analysis conducted with local tech firm eImpact Report.

This is the second year, TAO has worked with eImpact on a report. The full report and an array of graphics are available online. We will be continuing to issue periodic updates on the state of Oregon’s tech and innovation ecosystem using this platform.

Tracking our success and shortcomings is important, and our economic development, workforce and education partners, policymakers and the broader community need to know in which direction the local tech economy is moving.

As for employment, the tech industry accounts for a greater percentage of overall employment, at 1.6 percent, in Oregon than the industry does in a majority of other states.

In the last year, tech firms in Oregon supported nearly 78,000 jobs and contributed more than $66 million in taxes. By way of comparison, this is double what the tech industry in Arizona paid to the State of Arizona during the same time period.

The term “Silicon Valley creep” has been used to describe upward wage pressure in emerging tech markets resulting from the expansion of Silicon Valley tech firms into those markets. That trend is alive and well in Oregon.

Average tech industry wages in Oregon are 1.4 times greater than the national average. However, while tech wages in Oregon have increased in recent years — up 10.7 percent in the past year — those wages are still significantly lower than in Washington and Colorado, about even with Arizona, and higher than in Utah. All four of those states are home to emerging tech hubs and are often seen as competitors with Oregon for tech industry investment, job retention, and startup growth.

While the employment opportunities at software firms and the number of those firms continue to increase, growth in software employment has not been robust enough to offset layoffs in recent years in the semiconductor and device industry in Oregon. That industry still accounts for the lion’s share of tech employment in the state, and even relatively small decreases in employment by those firms can have a noticeable impact on tech employment numbers. Since 2000, overall employment in the semiconductor and device industry has been mostly flat in Oregon, whereas it has declined nationally.

In terms of startup activity, the number of new tech firms in Oregon continues to increase but at a more modest rate 8.3 percent than in previous years. The total amount of venture funding attracted by Oregon tech startups continues to climb steeply, with $528 million invested in 2018. However, the total number of deals declined in the past year from 120 to 100, so more money went to fewer startups — predominantly in the form of later growth rounds to more mature companies.

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