by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - Nike's Tiger Woods Center is one of the global apparel giant's world headquarters buildings. The company said Thursday that it will expand in Washington County. After months of speculation about its expansion plans, Nike Inc. said Thursday that it would construct two new buildings in Washington County. The company owns a site near its headquarters campus but has not yet said where it would expand.

The company said the county was the “preferred site” for the athletic footwear giant to expand with two new buildings, expanded parking lots, roads and other improvements to accommodate the company's future growth. The global athletic apparel giant said it would require the continued support and action by state and local governments to bring the plans to fruition.

“Nike is a growth company with a long history in Oregon and we look forward to continuing to grow here,” said Nike President Mark Parker. “We would like to thank Gov. (John) Kitzhaber and officials from the state, the cities of Portland and Beaverton, and Multnomah and Washington counties for working with us to expedite and support the proposed design, planning and building of the expansion of our headquarters. We look forward to continued partnerships as we work together to bring this important project to life in Oregon.”

Since 2007, Nike’s employment in Oregon has grown by nearly 60 percent. More than 8,000 Nike employees and contract workers are employed at its headquarters off Jenkins Road in Washington County near Beaverton.

The company plans to begin construction later this year.

The city of Portland and Washington County both have been courting Nike’s possible expansion since last fall. Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle made a point in recent years of building a healthy working relationship with the company, whose headquarters are in an “island” of Washington County just outside of the city limits.

Doyle is visiting Japan for an economic development-oriented conference and was unable for immediate comment on Friday afternoon. Randy Ealy, the city's chief administrative officer in the mayor's office, however, said the news is encouraging to city leaders and bodes well for the city's economic growth.

“It's pretty exciting news on all accounts,” he said. “One thousand Nike employees call Beaverton their home, and certainly that number will grow. These are people who shop in our stores, purchase goods in our businesses, send their children to our schools — and it's a company that, frankly, pays salaries that are twice the state average. It's a good day to be working in Washington County.”

Ealy said he's been trying to reach the mayor since he got a call from the company on Friday afternoon.

“I wish he was here,” Ealy said. “He'd be tickled. For what it's worth, he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for being a good partner in this process. He's worked very hard, attended a lot of meetings — even when he didn't have to be there. I know this (decision) meant a lot to him.”

Speculation about where Nike will expand began during December’s special session of the Legislature, which Kitzhaber called to approve legislation to assure Nike expands in the state. A new law authorized him to enter into a contract with Nike to guarantee the company’s current state tax structure — provided it invests at least $150 million in Oregon to create 500 or more jobs.

Nike officials had pushed for the legislation, saying the company needed to expand its headquarters and is being courted by other states. Nike is one of only two Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Oregon, part of the reason the Legislature agreed with Kitzhaber and approved the legislation.

South Waterfront site plans

Portland had been in the running for the major project, which promises to create as many as 6,000 new jobs in the coming decades.

“The city, the Portland Development Commission and Multnomah County presented Nike and its representatives with a comprehensive and compelling proposal,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. “I’m proud of the effort our team put together. And I’m thrilled that the project, and the jobs, are staying in the metropolitan area.”

The city and county had entered a non-disclosure agreement with Nike, in which the development was code-named Project Impact.

Last summer and fall, consultants from Nike approached the PDC about potentially moving into the city. Leaders from Portland, the PDC, Multnomah County and Greater Portland Inc. responded. Discussions hovered around an estimated 30 acres on the South Waterfront owned by the Zidell family.

Hales said the Zidell property likely will be developed even without Nike’s involvement.

“The site offers a unique opportunity for Portland to create an urban corporate campus,” Hales said.

Patrick Quinton, executive director of PDC, said the process has been positive, even if the city did not get the outcome it desired.

“While we are disappointed, we look forward to our continued collaboration with Nike in support of initiatives like Nike+ Accelerator and our joint efforts to present greater Portland as the global hub for the athletic and outdoor industry,” Quinton said.

Hales said Nike’s expansion in the metro area confirms the region’s position as a leader for athletic and outdoor companies. The expansion will benefit the region’s cluster of more than 200 companies and service providers in the athletic and outdoor sector.

“We would have been pleased to see Nike expand in Portland. But I’m gratified that the expansion of this homegrown company will happen right here at home,” Hales said. “This expansion will have a huge impact on the regional economy.”

Kitzhaber said Nike’s decision was “great news for Oregon.”

“Nike’s announcement is a testament to our decisive action in December to boost the state’s economy and benefit all Oregonians,” he said. “I will continue to work with the Legislature on effective strategies to attract and retain companies that create high-wage jobs and raise per capita

Everyone working together

With Beaverton's recently expanded enterprise zone including property adjacent to Nike headquarters in unincorporated Washington County, it would be up to the company to apply to receive three to five years of waived property taxes, Ealy said. The state-sanctioned enterprise zone waives property taxes for companies that agree to invest at least $1 million into facilities and new employment.

“I know we're excited we have that tool available,” Ealy said, adding that he has “no idea” whether Nike is interested in an E-zone status. “Never, as far as I've been involved in this process, been asked (by Nike) anything about paperwork for the enterprise zone.”

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat representing Oregon’s 1st Congressional district, praised Nike’s decision. Bonamici’s district includes Washington County and a small part of Multnomah County.

“I’m thrilled with Nike’s decision to expand in Washington County,” she said. “I congratulate the company and all of the local officials who have worked so hard to make this happen. The expansion will be a great boost to our local economy, and it couldn’t have happened without everyone working together.”

— Reporter Kevin Harden contributed to this news report.

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