A whipped up jitterbuggin' brown-eyed man,
A stray cat frontin' up an eight-piece band.
Cut me Sammy and you'll understand --
In my veins hot music ran!
You got me in a sway
And I want to swing you dove.
Now you sailors know
Where your women come for love!

            -- "Zoot Suit Riot," Cherry Poppin' Daddies

Throw back a bottle of microbrew -- it's a swinging backyard investing barbecue in the Pacific Northwest! The Daddies cited above started out at the University of Oregon, so they get to provide the National Poetry Month flavor today.

There are many good reasons for researching investment opportunities in a certain geographic area. Today, it's the great state of Oregon, wrapped around the Rockies and snuggled up to the Pacific Ocean, between the Californian hustle and bustle, and that interminable Seattle drizzle.

If you happen to live in Portland or Eugene, you already have a few advantages when it comes to evaluating the local market, such as access to local news sources and the word on the street, and a high probability of being a customer or employee of these companies. And if you're not a local resident, you might still want to know whether the weather matches the business climate -- a hot area could be chock-full of undiscovered treasures on their way to greatness.

Without further ado, here are the largest companies headquartered between Brookings and Hell's Canyon:


Market Cap (billions)

CAPS Rating

Bull Ratio





Precision Castparts (NYSE:PCP)




StanCorp Financial








Columbia Sportswear (NASDAQ:COLM)




Data taken from Motley Fool CAPS, and current as of 4/19/2007.

Swing it!
There may only be one major league sports team in the Beaver State -- the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA -- but this is still a top destination for outdoors recreation. Running is a favorite sport, which makes perfect sense when you consider the biggest employer in the area.

Our CAPS users sure like Nike's stock. The company has a massive campus in the suburbs of Portland, complete with soccer fields and a pro-style running track. All-star CAPS player dmbeach explains why the stock carries so many stars:

Seems like a good value at this level. I just don't see Nike taking much of a hit even in the event of a recession. Their global brand is super strong, and they still have a lot of growth to come in overseas markets, especially in Asia and Latin America.

By the way, the largest presence in the Oregon business landscape isn't headquartered there, but employs thousands of people and brings a halo effect of supporting businesses with it. I'm talking about Intel (NASDAQ:INTC). Those code names for the Pentium processor lines used to confuse me no end, but just looking at a map of Oregon feels like going back to five-year-old spec sheets. Klamath, Willamette, Tualatin, Cascades -- they're both Intel processors and local landmarks of various kinds. Just so you know.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming! Precision Castparts sells engine casings to the major airplane manufacturers, which is such an attractive business that the stock bounces between four and five CAPS stars. Stancorp is in the corporate benefits and employee insurance business. WyattKaldenberg administers a backhanded compliment for that company: "A fair company at a fair price."

FLIR, which is into infrared cameras and other thermal imaging equipment, is a rather steady five-star CAPS stock. Finally, Columbia Sportswear is an active Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation, and I'll let one of the locals expound on this one. Take it away, BearTrade:

In the northwest we know quality when it comes to inclement weather clothing especially that having to do with rain. Columbia Sportswear provides a well known quality product at a reasonable price. The company has continue[d] to have a nice profit continued growth and nice dividend.

What else?
The halo effect I mentioned above is a flurry of smaller operations that service the needs of a semiconductor manufacturer. That includes electronic test and measurement expert Tektronix (NYSE:TEK), semiconductor design facilitator Mentor Graphics, semiconductor foundry Triquint, and wafer repair specialist Electro Scientific Industries (NASDAQ:ESIO).

The end of the Oregon Trail has come a long way from the fur traders of its early days. Via railroad tracks across the Rockies, Oregon helped build the West with lumber and food exports aplenty. Edibles are still huge around here, with lots of cattle ranches, apple orchards, and potato fields. The state also produced 95% of the hazelnuts grown in America, which in itself is worthy of praise and respect. The logging market has faded a bit, thanks to a number of mishaps and missteps over the years.

It's not too hard to attract employees to such majestic scenery, and the lack of a sales tax helps too. In fact, Oregonites enjoy among the lowest per-capita taxation loads in the Union. So it's no surprise that the population is growing in a healthy way. Births outnumber deaths, and both domestic relocation and foreign immigration are net growth drivers here.

You've already seen the two Foolish newsletter picks in the state. Thirty-six Oregon-based corporations on the public markets have earned CAPS ratings, and a whopping 16 of them boast at least four stars. The Northwest looks like fertile grounds for investments in general and tech businesses in particular, especially if you include Seattle in your search. But Oregon can stand on its own.

Do you agree? Disagree? Feel free to weigh in on the Beaver State market -- or on any stocks at all, really -- by joining Motley Fool CAPS and blasting away with your ratings and commentary pitches. And if Klamath Falls isn't your 'hood, maybe we'll come around where you live the next time.

Make seven picks on CAPS by April 24 and we'll send you a free copy of The Motley Fool Five-Star Report. Inside you'll discover how to use CAPS as a research tool, and you'll receive a recommended five-star CAPS pick poised to beat the market for the next decade or more -- one that you can easily translate into profits for your real-world portfolio. Click here to get started now!

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here, but he suffers from -- no, enjoys -- a severe hazelnut addiction. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, or follow him around the world on these Foolish local-business treks. Intel is an Inside Value pick and Columbia is a Hidden Gems choice. Foolish disclosure is always red-hot.