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Located at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, Portland was originally a clearing in the woods, where Native Americans and traders stopped to rest. In 1844, New Englanders settled in the area and had a coin toss to determine whether the town would be named Boston or Portland, with Portland the winner. The California and Alaska Gold Rushes, the 1904 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, and the construction of the Bonneville Dam all contributed to the city's growth during the early 1900s. In the 1970s, forward thinking urban planners established an Urban Growth Boundary that allowed valuable agricultural land and natural resources to coexist with Portland’s urbanization. Today, the combination of the Northwest’s natural beauty and Portland’s unique history makes it one of the most livable and greenest cities in the world. 

The City of Portland has the last remaining Commission form of government among large cities in the United States. This form of government differs from most other municipalities in that five of its elected officials – the Mayor and four Commissioners – make up the city council and all have legislative, administrative, and quasi-judicial powers. METRO, the first directly elected regional government in the U.S., was established to ensure coordination and partnership among the region's jurisdictions for transportation, land use planning, solid waste management, and regional facilities. Both the state of Oregon and the city of Portland are at the forefront of the environmental movement in the U.S. and have gained national recognition for their progressive land-use policies. At the state level, government is unique in that it employs an initiative and referendum process, known nationally as the Oregon System, which dates back to 1902.  

Oregon’s economy was historically based on timber and agriculture, but today has the third densest concentration of electronics firms in the U.S. in what is called Portland's ‘Silicon Forest.’ The Port of Portland has the third largest export volume among west coast ports, exporting the most wheat in the U.S. The city is also home to several nationally ranked universities and colleges including the state’s biggest employer, Oregon Health & Science University. Portland hosts a growing film industry with hit TV shows such as Portlandia and Grimm filmed locally. Nearby in Portland’s suburbs are Intel Corporation’s largest manufacturing site and Nike’s world headquarters. Oregon supports a growing alternative and clean energy sector, with businesses such as SolarWorld and Vestas establishing manufacturing and sales offices in the Portland region, and firms such as Portland General Electric and Energy Trust of Oregon leading the way in establishing sustainable utility power. Oregon’s civic involvement is nationally recognized: in 2014 one-in-three residents volunteered, over one-in-two donated to a charity, and the rates of young adult involvement were among the highest in the nation.  

Today, Portland is home to just over 632,300 people with a metro area population of about 2.35 million. It is the largest city in Oregon and the second largest in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to its year-round outdoor recreational activities, Portland also hosts a range of performing art institutions, many music venues, and numerous festivals, the largest being the Portland Rose Festival each June. The city has the largest number of breweries in the U.S. and large wine, coffee and culinary scenes. In fact, the Washington Post named Portland the #1 food city in America in 2015 and The Telegraph named Portland as the food and drink capital of America in 2016. Portland also boasts one of the best park systems in the nation including the U.S.’s largest forested urban park. Portland’s myriad nicknames include the Rose City, Stumptown, the City of Bridges, and Portlandia. 

Portland program organized by

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Andrea Vanessa Castillo


Program Officer

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