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A Glimpse into the Future
A Glimpse into the Future

It’s election season again, when politicians foretell of a brighter future for all, should, of course, they win the election. “Prosperity,” Woodrow Wilson said, “is necessarily the first theme of a political campaign.”

Campaign rhetoric and soothsaying aside, the future remains as much a mystery as prosperity is a point of view. That we cannot peer into the future, however, is becoming increasingly problematic for elected officials, government agencies, interest groups, utilities, and other public-service organizations for which long-term sustainability is integral to their missions.

The ability to peer into the future of the Portland metro region is now closer to a reality thanks to a team of economists from Portland State University’s Northwest Economic Research Center (NERC) led by Oregon’s former state economist, Dr. Tom Potiowsky. Working with data from a number of state and federal agencies, Dr. Potiowsky and his team have developed a population and economic forecast for the seven county region of the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro Metropolitan Statistical Area that extends as far as fifty years into the future. The forecast sheds light on how the region’s population will grow by gender and age over the coming decades. It also predicts employment, personal income, housing starts, and the price index of goods and services through the middle of the century.

“There was a real need for a regional population and economic forecast that took into consideration the local nuances of the Portland metro region,” Dr. Potiowsky said. “Sure, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides estimates of monthly job numbers, but their data is removed from what’s happening on the ground. And some local agencies have put together similar reports, but there are always questions about accuracy and uncertainties in their data and methodology. Our independent report avoids those shortcomings and frees up time for government agencies to devote to their core missions.”

To create the regional population and economic forecast, NERC received the backing of the City of Portland, Metro, NW Natural, Clark County, and Portland General Electric, all of which expressed a need for just such a report.

“This report contains information essential to the long-term development and sustainability plans of government agencies and anchor institutions throughout the metro region,” Dr. Potiowsky said. “It’s a tool they can use to shape the way Portland and the surrounding area will grow in the coming decades.”

Election years are excellent reminders that long-term growth and prosperity cannot be achieved through campaign slogans alone. With the Portland Metropolitan Regional Population and Economic Forecast, government agencies as well as other public and private organizations have a new tool at their disposal to help them peer into the future, and though it’s no crystal ball, it certainly can help the region plan for prosperity.