A number of media outlets noted that Portland continues to attract young college graduates in droves.
There was also coverage of a growing trend of startup founders leaving the Bay Area to grow their companies in Portland.
These stories reminded me of separate conversations I had with two local tech leaders when I worked for Mayor Sam Adams 5+ years ago. The first was with James Turnbull, who had relocated to the U.S. from Australia and had recently joined Puppet Labs (he’s now with Kickstarter in NYC). I ran into James at an OSCON party and he mentioned that one of the things that attracted him to Portland–other than the well-known open source community–was the fact the City at the time was doing a lot of work to engage the local developer community in stuff like open data projects.
The second conversation was with Justin Garrity, who worked at Webtrends and later went on to work at StoryCode and Postano. During a meeting, Justin mentioned it would be so great if the region could build on its reputation for livability and urban planning and create a truly digital city.
Fast-forward five years and cities such as London, Dublin, Glasgow, and multiple cities in places like South Korea are moving forward with plans to develop into digital or “smart” cities. In the U.S., cities are trying to catch up to their global competitors. Why is this important? Because cities and government need to become smarter and more efficient with their resources as urban populations increase and the demands on infrastructure grow.
What is this important to our local tech community? Because there is a tremendous, multi-trillion dollar opportunity looming where technology can help provide solutions to issues ranging from public safety/security, resiliency in the face of natural disasters and climate change, transportation congestion, to health and wellness.
And as the news from this past week shows, it’s also important because talent is increasingly mobile and choosing to live and work where there is a connection to a sense of place. As the tech community here continues to evolve and grow and define what it is and what it is not. I would like to challenge all of us–tech and non-tech alike–to start to imagine what a truly digital city might look like.
We have a lot of the necessary components here already, now all we need is some momentum. Over the course of 2015, TAO and its partners will be moving forward with some initiatives designed to get things moving, and we want you to join us. Stay tuned…
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