Since everybody loves a good PDX vs SEA debate, I thought I’d look at some economic indicators to shed some light on why SEA has been growing exponentially more than PDX. The cliff notes version is that Seattle’s economy has grown exponentially more than Portland’s.
Currently metro Seattle has the 11th largest GDP in the country; metro Portland has the 21st largest. Sounds about right, but digging in to the numbers a little bit sheds some more light on things. In 2012, Seattle’s GDP was $267,420,000 and Portland’s was $144,551,000. The delta between the two cities at that time was $122 million and change. Fast forward to 2017, and Portland saw solid economic growth at a rate of 19% over five years, increasing the GDP to $171,772,000. The eye opener is that Seattle saw 33% growth from the same time period; the delta between Seattle and Portland increased by an additional $62 million, meaning the cities are now separated by $184 million in total GDP. Another way of looking at it is that Portland added $27,221,000 of GDP over the five year period; Seattle added $89,100,000 over the same time period. In other words, Seattle’s economy grew about three times faster than Portland’s in the 2012-2017 timeframe. That is significant, and I think it helps explain why SEA has continued to go gangbusters with new service (now the rumor, according to another thread, is SQ starting SIN-SEA).
But not all is lost. Bend is the fastest growing economy in the Northwest (I looked at Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska), with 58% growth in five years. Medford and Eugene are also humming along quite nicely at 32% and 22%, respectively. Put it all together and you can start to see why AA and UA have been so quick to jump on RDM, MFR, and EUG. In addition, Salem has seen 36% growth to overtake Eugene in overall economic output, and in fact is now the second largest economic center in Oregon after Portland. One could probably make the argument that SLE is ready for commercial service again, but I think it suffers from a case of TooclosetoPDXitis.
Of the major cities in the Northwest (Seattle, Portland, Boise, Spokane, and Anchorage), Portland has (barely) the lowest positive growth rate at 19%. It goes Seattle at 33% growth, Boise at 29%, Spokane at 20%, and Portland at 19%. Anchorage has tanked in the last five years due to the drop in oil prices, with a -11% decrease in economic output. That said, ANC has continued to see modest growth in air traffic due to tourism as well as its isolation.