Portland International Airport construction is growing the economy of the whole state

"PDX" is the International Air Transport Association's code for the Portland International Airport. Appropriately, these three letters have become a moniker for the city itself.

Portland's airport is a bustling area of activity at the center of Portland-metro's own transformation from a mid-sized region to a major metropolitan center of commerce. Oregonians produce unique, quality goods and services that are in demand worldwide; the airport literally keeps our economy moving. In a state where nearly half a million jobs are related to international trade, the airport is a global lifeline to regional prosperity.

When PDX surpassed 16 million travelers in 2015, it was reclassified from a medium to a large commercial airport. In 2016, the airport served more than 18 million travelers as one of the nation's 30 largest air service centers; that's a huge economic advantage for this region.

Now, the Port of Portland is in the middle of a series of expansion projects called PDXNext, which currently represents more than a $248 million investment in the airport and will encompass changes through 2020. The capacity to expand while still retaining a uniquely Oregon feel will help PDX reflect the community while keeping pace with bigger cities.

It definitely helps that Portland-metro's flagship outdoor gear and apparel companies and growing tech firms are leading the demand for more air cargo movement and passenger service. As such, the airport has expanded its roster of direct international flights to other major cities.

Through airline partners like Delta, Icelandair, Condor, Volaris, Alaska, Air Canada and Cathay Pacific Cargo, PDX can now get more people and cargo directly and quickly to Asia, Europe, Mexico and Canada. On May 26, Delta Air Lines will start a new, non-stop, seasonal flight between Portland and London Heathrow Airport, the biggest aviation hub in the world.

There is more international passenger traffic moving through Portland than ever before. In 2016, 672,893 international travelers passed through PDX, a 51 percent increase from 2012. Last year, the airport also moved 6,445 tons of air freight to foreign markets, making expansion projects timely and vital to economic growth.

As a frequent flier myself, I know that Portlanders who travel often will appreciate some no nonsense upgrades designed to handle a higher volume of passengers and improve operational efficiency. Improvements under PDXNext include new security checkpoint exit lanes, new passenger waiting areas, a new security system, the forthcoming expansion of Concourse E and preliminary planning for a new core terminal.

Yet, much like the ability to turn carpet replacement into an iconic craze, PDX will still do things just a little bit differently than other metro airports. As a gateway to the region, the airport must reflect Portland's unique culture. Local restaurants, coffee roasters and breweries are well-represented as well as globally-recognized local retailers like Nike and Columbia Sportswear. There is a new Hollywood Theatre showing free, short films by local and regional artists and food carts that will ensure travelers get a real Portland dining experience.

In my view, however, the most "Portland" thing about the airport are the people who work there. I've always appreciated the intense pride in the airport's approach to customer service, and I am sure that is why PDX is consistently rated the country's best airport.

I'm excited to see PDX grow, while still retaining its authentic Portland character. Look for me photographing my feet on that new green carpet as a sign that I am home when I'm at PDX.

Jim Mark is CEO of Melvin Mark Companies and is chair-elect of the Portland Business Alliance board of directors. Send feedback to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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