Great bike access helps score great workers, Portland firms say

It wasn’t until after he decided to start a business that Ben Waldron learned just how important a good bike commute was becoming to Portland’s creative workers.

July 2008 seemed like “probably the worst time in economic history” to strike out on your own, Waldron recalled. But he and his colleague Levi Patterson had the itch. So they rented a few hundred square feet in central Portland and co-founded Pollinate, an advertising agency that included, in its entirety, two 30-year-olds, two laptops, and lots of ideas for how to do mobile and digital marketing right.

Contracts started coming in, and Pollinate started hiring. That was when they discovered that their workplace’s good bike accessibility was a key asset in recruiting.

“It used to be a perk,” Waldron said. “Now it seems like it’s a right.”

Five years later, 20 of Pollinate’s 30 employees bike to work regularly, Waldron estimates. Ten pedal in every day, rain or shine. Waldron said the company negotiated bike access into their lease two years ago; for their next move, he plans to look for a building with full bike lockers and showers.