Jayne: We’re not just the Couv, we’ve got plenty of cool

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Editor



Greg Jayne, Opinion page editor

People in the Couv can take some credit for this.

You see, the nice thing about being part of the Portland metro area is that we can declare our allegiance when it suits our purposes or disassociate when it doesn’t. Kind of like the Democrats with the Clintons.

So it makes perfect sense that we embrace our status as part of Portland when the region is deemed by Forbes to be the fifth-coolest metro area in the country. That’s “cool,” as in hip and fashionable, not a commentary on the climate. That’s “cool,” as in chic and popular, not a suggestion that the people are cold and unfriendly.

Yes, Portland is bubbling over with the good kind of cool according to bluebloods who typically write about finance and business, and we in the Couv are more than willing to take some credit for that. After all, the people of Clark County account for about 20 percent of the metro area’s population.

“Cool,” of course, is a subjective term, whether talking about movies or music or the restaurant on the corner; we could spend the better part of a day arguing about whether Coldplay is cool, but that won’t help define what makes for a chic city.

So the good people of Forbes put together measurements of things such as recreation opportunities, coffee shops and breweries, mass transportation, bicycling commuters, net migration, small-business growth, and population diversity in determining whether or not a metropolitan area is trendy (http://tinyurl.com/yche4w4s). In other words, they looked at the kinds of things that make people want to live and work there.

Portland came in fifth, behind San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, and New Orleans. The area scored high in terms of bicycles, along with coffee shops and breweries. It scored relatively poorly in diversity and small-business growth, although we can’t help but think it would have shot up the list had there been a category for “bookstores that fill an entire downtown block.”

Undoubtedly, there are many residents who are not enamored with this region’s cool factor. There are those who decry the rampant liberalism and refer to “The People’s Republic of Portland” and complain that the area is not friendly to business. You know the type — they think environmental regulations are inherently harmful to the economy and that “hip” can be conflated with “hippie.” Then they complain whenever a bike lane is constructed.

A roaring economy

So it is notable that Forbes last week also ranked the Portland area No. 1 on its 2017 list of “The Best Places for Business and Careers,” which probably caused an aneurysm or two among the naysayers. As Kurt Badenhausen wrote: “The influx of educated young adults has been a boon to the $157 billion economy, with household incomes up 4 percent annually since 2011 and unemployment falling below 4 percent from a peak of 11.3 percent in 2009. Portland now has the ninth-highest concentration of highly educated millennials.”

Lest we think this combination of being cool and having a roaring economy is an aberration, Seattle is No. 2 and No. 3 on the Forbes lists. Which pretty much confirms that Vancouver is the best place in the country to live right now — it is in one of the nation’s premier metro areas and is within shouting distance of the other.

All of which leads to questions about how to remain at this nexus of desirability and success. Being cool doesn’t carry much cachet when you take extra time to sip that double latte at the trendy coffee shop because you are browsing the want ads.

And that inevitably leads to a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver. We’re not sure whether Forbes addressed this, so we shall: Oil terminals are not cool. They are the antithesis of cool, akin to covering a diamond with black sludge and saying, “See? It’s an improvement.”

We can do better than an oil terminal, because we recognize that being cool and being prosperous are not mutually exclusive. After all, we’re the Couv.