Longview and its sister city Kelso make up a grain-loading and forest-products center serving ocean traffic coming up the Columbia River. The area contains a complex of grain elevators and mills, an outdated urban core and set of working class neighborhoods and urban sprawl uncharacteristic of many Pacific Northwest towns. The area is close to Portland, 40 miles to the south, and is a western gateway to the Mount St. Helens area.
There are some new industrial parks working to attract more light manufacturing and new-economy businesses, and town leaders are aware of the area’s shortcomings and are working to deal with them. The pluses include a strategic location on transportation routes between Portland and Seattle, good labor force, Columbia River frontage and nice surroundings. Cost of living is high for the type of area but low for the region, a possible long term plus.
The terrain is generally hilly with wooded hilltops and broad, flat, mostly agricultural valleys away from industrial areas. The wooded hilltops give way to dense forests and alpine climates 30 to 50 miles east in the main Cascade Range. The climate is Pacific Northwest with a marine influence bringing relatively warm, dry, sunny summers and cool, wet periods most of the rest of the year. The area is sheltered from severe weather, and snow, while it does occur, is uncommon.