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Can a Creative Agency Reshape Portland?

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Like any other city, Portland, Oregon exists beyond its borders as the image others project from it.

If that tableau features alabaster creatives in thrift-store ensembles pedaling tall bikes from their afternoon coffee shop to their evening’s craft brewery, that’s what visiting outsiders will expect. If Portland’s name is tied to a stream of images of tear-gassed protesters, boarded windows, homeless encampments and epidemic fentanyl use, that, too, will be the city’s brand in certain corners of the country.

The view from Oved Valadez’s Industry agency on 10th Ave. on the West End of Downtown Portland tells a different story. During the pandemic, office vacancies downtown increased from 12.4% at the end of 2019 to 21.2% in the first quarter of this year, according to real estate firm Kidder Matthews. Portland tourism spending that peaked at $5.9 billion in 2019 cratered to $2.8 billion in 2020 and only inched up to $5.2 billion last year.

But amid all of this, a Ritz-Carlton hotel and residences rose across the street from Industry’s headquarters, condos sprang up around the corner with views of the Willamette River and the nearby Park Blocks. Businesses like Bertony Faustin’s Abbey Creek Vineyard and Angel Medina and team’s Republica—and its burgeoning restaurant empire—moved in as neighbors.

Industry had long used its powers to tell the story of brands including Nike, Tidal, Timberland and Jordan Brand. In 2021, Valadez’s agency teamed up with tourism agency Travel Portland on a campaign of “This is Portland” digital spots aimed at bringing travelers back to the city. Last year, Industry worked with influencer Matty Matheson for his own field trip around the town.

This year, however, Industry made the investment in its neighborhood’s future personal by opening the IndustryOne gallery and exhibition space on the ground floor of its building. The agency’s marketing-industry friends, its West End neighbors or even tourists only about a block and a half from their destination at Powell’s Books could pop in to see work by artists tied to the marketing industry. The space’s last show, Sentimientos/Sentiments, was a collaboration between Southern California multimedia artist and graphic designer Madsteez (aka Mark Paul Deren)—who’s done work for Nike, Target and Red Bull, among others—and It’s a Living (aka Mexican artist Ricardo Gonzalez), who’s worked with Bentley, Google and Coca-Cola. 

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