This cluster cuts across multiple industries: Medical, armor, civil defense, electronics, boots, knives, tactical clothing, homeland security, military, and aerospace technology. Innovations spurred by defense spending cross the economy leads to innovation in other sectors and industries including firefighting and the development of outdoor gear.

Industry Overview

The Defense cluster cuts across multiple industries: Medical, armor, cars, boats, civil defense, electronics, boots, knives, tactical clothing, homeland security, military, and aerospace technology.   In Oregon, firms work on Composite Structures, Propulsion Design, Telemetry, Tracking and Control Systems, Software Design, Electronics Manufacturing Services, and Advanced Fabrication and Machining. Industries represented include:

  • Aerospace
  • Textiles
  • Heavy Manufacturing
  • Electronics
  • Packaging
  • Sustainable Technologies

Defense by the Numbers

The defense industry consists of contractors across a wide spectrum of industries, many of whom are second or third tier suppliers to prime defense contractors. This makes it challenging to determine the exact size of Oregon’s defense industry is. There are no reliable estimates of just how many defense-related industry workers there are in Oregon, or how much income these workers are earning. However, the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition currently has 150 member firms from Oregon and Washington. PNDC members employ more than 100,000 workers. Federal defense spending in Oregon nearly doubled in 2007 and came in at more than $1.6 billion in 2009.

Cluster Strengths

  • “Know-how” for implementation of defense contracts
  • Low cost of doing business
  • Record of high quality, durable products
  • Climate of innovation — Smart and flexible manufacturers who are willing to try new things
  • Homegrown small businesses — willingness to fight hard to compete
  • Manufacturing base
  • Strong National Guard presence
  • Inter-cluster cooperation to attract federal defense appropriations, workforce training funding
  • Intra-cluster collaboration with other clusters (OWET, Technology Association of Oregon, Manufacturing 21)

Cluster Challenges

  • Most other military companies and vendors are located out of state
  • Aging workforce- losing qualified staff
  • Logistics and transportation infrastructure.
  • Innovation capacity-tech transfer & commercialization
  • Lack of finance from venture capital and state funding
  • Industry is project-driven and revenue projections are difficult

  • Lack of in-state military bases

Recent Accomplishments

Oregon’s defense industry has historically been a small part of the state’s economy, but that’s changing. After years of hardly any growth for the industry, Department of Defense spending in Oregon nearly doubled between 2006 and 2007, and by 2009 spending topped $1.6 billion. That was triple the value of orders Oregon’s defense industry received just five years earlier.

Priorities & Initiatives

  • Hiring Veterans:Those within the Defense Cluster believe in hiring America’s Heroes –- our Veterans. We think that if our Heroes are going to stand ready to go to war to protect us, we should stand ready to welcome them home and offer them jobs in the region’s defense firms.
  • Expand Participation in Regional Opportunities: Like many other sectors, not everyone is prime, which makes suppliers a very important part of the defense supply chain. At the heart of our cluster is the development of defense contracting opportunities, many of which start from the relationships developed at networking and training events found all around the region and through one-on-one procurement counseling with businesses.
  • Training: In order for companies to be successful within the defense cluster, they must understand the rules and regulations associated with working with Primes, and the Federal Government. Understanding the basics of ITAR/Export Compliance, how to register with GSA, and other related topics can mean the difference in whether a defense company is successful.
  • Supplier Network: Connecting regional companies to one another is a major priority for the defense cluster. Not only can partnering assist in winning contracts, finding regional suppliers can mean the difference in whether or not a company is able to meet product development and production timelines. The defense cluster has developed an online supplier network, which is called Northwest Connectory. This network crosses all of the clusters in Oregon and is built to assist companies in finding the Oregon and Washington manufacturing and technology suppliers they need. The website contains detailed profiles of the capabilities of more than 4,500 Northwest industrial and technology companies, in addition to relevant resources, such as those at federal labs, university and private research centers.

Who is Involved?


Notable companies include FLIR Systems, Precision Castparts, SAIC, Axiom Electronics, Allied Systems, Crimson Trace, Vigor Industrial, Benchmade, Danner/LaCrosse Footwear, and Oregon Iron Works.

Industry Associations

The Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition is a member-funded industry association committed to improving the defense and security industry climate in the Pacific Northwest by encouraging regional collaboration and emphasizing economic development. PNDC provides:

  • Training/Education
  • One-on-One Procurement Counseling
  • Networking Opportunities
  • Advocacy

Cluster Contact

Dave Hunt

Executive Director

Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition

Office: 888-701-7632 x 101

Mobile: 206-914-1842

P.O. Box 92154

Portland, OR 97292