Manufacturing is a diverse and valuable cluster for the Oregon economy. Manufacturing includes the production of metals, machinery, transportation equipment, computer and electronic products, outdoor gear, solar panels and many other goods. Manufacturing firms are located throughout Oregon, with the strongest presence in the Portland Metro Area. Oregon manufactured products serve customers around the globe. 

Industry Overview

Manufacturers across a variety of industry clusters in Oregon face common challenges as they operate in a fiercely competitive global market.  The importance of manufacturing to Oregon and the decided advantage to doing business is this state has been emphasized in two recent reports. In a report prepared by ECONorthwest, Portland area advanced manufacturing companies were cited for their high wages, national leadership in specialty metal fabrication and high-tech electronics, and efficient production. A study produced by the American Institute for Economic Research named Oregon as the number one manufacturing state for efficiency. A number of trade and non-profit organizations support Oregon’s advanced manufacturers through advocacy, education, and service delivery, including Manufacturing 21, Northwest Food Processors Association, Oregon Bioscience Association, Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition, and the Portland Development Commission. Manufacturing 21 has been a particularly effective voice in helping policy makers in government and industry understand the importance of a skilled workforce.

Manufacturing by the Numbers



Economic  Impact

Average Wage: $60,223 (2011)
Direct Employment: 167,598 (2011)
Total Companies: 5,621(2011)
Average Wage Growth: 9.6% (2008-2011)
Employment Growth: -14% (2008-2011)

Source: Oregon Employment Department, Oregon Labor Market Information System. CES and OCEW data

 Cluster Strengths

  • Low traffic congestion, lower cost of living, accessible outdoor recreation activities, and mild climate contribute to a high quality of life that improves Oregon’s ability to recruit and retain professional talent like operators, engineers, and marketing and finance experts.
  • Oregon’s proximity to the coast means the importing of raw materials and exporting of final products is more easily facilitated than in competitor regions.
  • Oregon hosts many niche companies with high quality products not found elsewhere.
  • Oregon has historically lower-cost power, wages, and workers’ compensation costs than California.

Cluster Challenges

  • Oregon needs improved access to a mid-skill level, drug-free workforce.
  • Transportation is problematic as there are not enough direct flights from Portland to the East Coast, Europe, and China.  Similarly, rail and mass transit accessibility must be improved and the costs of operating and utilizing ports must be reduced.
  • The image of the manufacturing industry in general has been made worse recently by a string of downsizings and closures in Oregon manufacturing plants.
  • Demographically, Oregon competes with other regions to attract the same employees, and our workforce is aging and exhibiting significant turnover in the near future.  There are also significant cultural and language barriers within a diverse workforce, and these can prove problematic.

Key Initiatives


  • Adopt a statewide “Core/Foundations Certificate” in manufacturing/green technology offered by community colleges and targeted towards “middle skill” production and technician occupations that emphasizes critical foundations in employability and technical skills.
  • Aggressively address the need for more qualified instructors to teach technical courses in high-demand occupational areas at all levels; train retired or semi-retired skilled workers.
  • Expand programs to strengthen science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at the middle school, high school, and community college levels.  These programs should offer project-based, problem solving curriculum along with experiential learning and extracurricular activities.
  • Empower local workforce boards to establish priorities through the development of regional workforce plans.
  • Use Oregon Employment Department data about the most in-demand, high-skill, & high wage jobs to drive state and local workforce training funds.
  • Allow Oregon’s School Improvement Fund grant program to prioritize proposals from school districts seeking to improve the way they prepare our youth for in-demand high skill, high wage jobs.
  • Create a permanent youth summer job fund administered by local workforce boards and matched by employers.
  • Institute an on-the-job training program (OJT) providing short-term training wage subsidies to facilitate the movement of workers into the workplace.

Innovation and Productivity:

  • Strengthen the technology transfer partnerships between universities and firms.
  • Increase innovation and improve productivity by expanding high performance consortia throughout the state (see below).
  • Support deployment of next generation manufacturing strategies in innovation, workforce, process improvement, supply chain, green/sustainability, and global engagement offered by the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
  • Create a Manufacturing Investment Fund to support manufacturers in achieving global competitiveness through deployment of next generation manufacturing strategies.
  • Help firms with additional financing tools to purchase equipment to diversify and build a renewable energy supply chain (specifically in wind and solar).
  • Expand efforts to promote drug-free workforces through the training and education programs of Workdrugfree Oregon.

Key Organizations

High Performance Enterprise Consortia:
Northwest High Performance Enterprise Consortium (NWHPEC)
High Desert Enterprise Consortium (HIDEC)
Emerald Valley High Performance Enterprise Consortium (EVHPEC)
Mid-Willamette High Performance Enterprise Consortium (MWHEPC)
Southern Oregon High Performance Enterprise Consortium (SOHPEC)

Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership  is a not-for-profit team of manufacturing professionals whose mission is to help small business transform the way they do business to become globally competitive. Consultants possess extensive hands-on manufacturing experience in engineering, technical, and operations management.

Manufacturing 21 Coalition (MFG 21) is a private-public partnership that advocates for Oregon and Southwest Washington’s manufacturing economy. Its members include business, labor, education and training providers, as well as local workforce development boards.

Portland Development Commission – Advanced Manufacturing

Cluster Contacts

Chris Scherer
Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Jennifer Nolfi
Portland Development Commission

Norm Eder
Manufacturing 21