City Focus: Portland
Located in Oregon at the confluence of the Columbia River and Willamette River, Portland is the state's largest city. Portland is also the second most populous city in the Pacific Northwest. The approximately 640,000 people that make Portland their home are a portion of the more than 2.4mn individuals residing in the city's metropolitan area. This makes it the 25th largest such area in the entire country.
Due to its favorable location, Portland easily lends itself to numerous industries. Energy costs are fairly low, the city boasts large and modern marine terminals and it is also a hub for international air carriers. Portland also has the reputation of being a "weird" city. While pundits like to point out the absurdities that sometimes come from the city – the chummy local government and its fixation on artisanal coffee, for example – these same kinds of attributes can also lend themselves to unique businesses that might flounder in other environments. Here, they are often embraced by the niche markets they serve and are able to expand to meet the increased demand for their distinctive products and services.
The Port of Portland
The Port of Portland is the country's third-largest export tonnage port as well as the largest situated in fresh water. The marine terminals of Portland handle more than 13mn tons of cargo every year and is also the location of one of the United States' largest ports based on export tonnage. While the steel industry became Portland's top producer in the 1950s – and still accounts for multi-billion ton shipments of metal to destinations overseas – it is currently better known as the country's largest shipper of wheat.
Big business in Portland
As the above statistics demonstrate, Portland is a study in contrasts. According to a recent Biz2Credit study, the Portland metropolitan area was noted as having the nation's second-highest revenue on average in terms of businesses with average revenue below $10mn or with fewer than 250 employees. Portland has also been recognized as one of the last cities that hasn't devolved into skyrocketing rents and other rising costs. For example, the median rent in the city sits at around $969 per month. This figure is about half of what a renter can expect to pay in San Francisco.
Diversity in Portland’s educational offerings adds to the development of innovative start-ups and the growth of others. In addition to Portland State University – the university with the state's second-highest enrolment – other notable institutions of higher learning include the Oregon Health & Science University, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Lewis & Clark Law School and the National University of Natural Medicine.
Portland businesses find themselves sprinkled throughout any list that highlights fast-growing, emerging or innovative companies. Technology is an important component of Portland's economy, so much so that the city has earned the nickname of "Silicon Forest." This moniker is a nod to the rich number of trees that dot Portland as well as its similarity to the Silicon Valley area of Northern California. In addition to the more than 1,200 companies devoted solely to technology, the city is home to numerous resources and support networks. These include business incubators, as well as facilities for online startup companies and software businesses.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Intel is the largest employer in the Portland metropolitan area. Famous for its computer chips and other components that meet the growing demand for speedy technological functions, Intel boasts more than 15,000 area residents on its payroll. The company maintains several campuses in Hillsboro, a city located just west of the central area of Portland.
Portland is also home to numerous major, active-oriented brands including the following:
Nike is the iconic maker of athletic shoes worn by celebrities, sports stars and ordinary citizens around the world. With products to meet the needs of every type of athlete – even those who are couch potatoes – Nike fosters a culture that rewards innovation, creativity and invention.
Adidas manufactures sports clothing and shoes for the general athlete as well as for ordinary people who like to be comfortable and stylish. The sports brand also develops products that meet the specific needs of players of tennis, football, basketball and more.
Columbia Sportswear is the undisputed leader in outdoor apparel and related products. Combining their passion for the outdoors with an understanding of the people who enjoy it means that Columbia Sportwear's boots, pants, jackets, fleece and shoes boast the latest in innovative technology.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.