Why is Portland the Silicon Forest and how did it start? Stumped in Stumptown took a byte out of this story to get every bit of the history.
If you’ve been reading the business news at all (typically boring, we know), you may have noticed that Portland’s tech industry is booming. A thriving startup community has attracted the big names in technology for years now. Back in 2015, Amazon bought Elemental Technologies – a company that creates software to stream live events on the Internet – for more than $500 million. Silicon Forest isn’t a nickname just to make Portlanders feel good about themselves and to provide a cute analog to its Silicon Valley counterpart – the tech industry in Portland is serious business.
Portland’s first tech companies actually started way before tech was something the average person talked about with Tektronix and Electro Scientific Industries opening their headquarters in Portland in the 1940s. As with any tech company, employees eventually left to create their own companies including Floating Point Systems which was started by three previous Tektronix employees in 1970. The tech industry began to grow in Portland.
In the 1990s, Intel was running out of space in Santa Clara, California (it’s kinda cramped when you’ve got multiple multi-million cities in the form of San Francisco and San Jose growing to your north and south) so the processor-giant moved its technical operations center to Oregon – now its most advanced campus.
Lattice Semiconductor is credited with coining the Silicon Forest nickname in the early 1980s likely because of its obvious derivative nature to Silicon Valley – the name given to the Santa Clara Valley in California where technology companies like Intel (using silicon to make its processors) got its start. Tech companies use silicon. The Pacific Northwest is famous for its forests. Voila! Silicon Forest is born!
Now, when the nickname Silicon Forest is used, it refers not only to the tech industry in Portland, but the tech tech industry throughout all of Oregon and it continues to grow.
Watch out, Seattle – we’re coming for you!
What other Portland nicknames would you like us to investigate? Leave them in the comments or shoot us a message.