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Kind of a Big Deal

What would happen if Nike came to town?

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"It would be a big deal," said City Councilor Mark Capell.

Capell was referencing the prospect of Nike expanding to Central Oregon, a possibility floated by Sen.-elect Tim Knopp during a Dec. 19 City Council session.

"We're in contact with folks from Nike," said Knopp.

Nike, which has been doing business in Oregon for nearly 50 years, recently began looking for a spot to expand after a deal brokered with the Oregon Legislature. The multinational sportswear giant had considered leaving the state, but Gov. John Kitzhaber and state legislators granted Nike a tax deal in exchange for jobs.

Kitzhaber signed off on an agreement that would lock in Nike's current tax structure for 30 years, and, in exchange, Nike must invest $150 million in a capital project that will produce at least 500 jobs. Nike relayed to Kitzhaber that the planned expansion would result in 12,000 jobs.

Now representatives of Central Oregon are hoping the Beaverton-based corporation picks Bend as the ideal place to expand.

Knopp told the Source this week that Nike is currently creating a list of what it's looking for in a location. Once Nike releases that information, the Bend City Council and other regional reps will be able to put together an appropriate proposal.

"We'll be back in touch with them shortly," Knopp added.

As glamorous as a Nike facility in Bend sounds, the prospect is most likely a long shot.

"Our intel tells us that there's a high probability that this will end up in the Portland Metro area," said Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon. "But we pursue these long shots as well."

We checked in with a number of other area leaders to vet just how much of a shot Bend's got.

City of Bend Business Advocate Carolyn Eagan said she has not been in touch with Nike but luring them to Central Oregon is "definitely on my radar."

Bend City Manager Eric King said without a port or major freeway, Central Oregon may appear less attractive than the Portland area. But a Nike facility in Bend would certainly provide a positive charge for Central Oregon's economy.

EDCO reports that as of July 2012 (the latest poll), Deschutes County's unemployment rate was 10.7 percent—nearly two percentage points lower than the national average during the same period.

"There's a few hundred jobs that they [Nike] would bring, so that could be a huge boost for the local economy," King said.

Nike or no, King said Central Oregon will continue to attract large employers to the area.

"We already have a good entrepreneurial climate, with start lots of small start ups, but we don't have the larger types," added King.

Through initiatives like Trip 97, a collaborative effort among city, county and state officials that seeks to improve Highway 97, King hopes to make Central Oregon more alluring to big business.

"We need to do a better job of managing that asset," King said of Highway 97, "Central Oregon's economic lifeline."

In the meantime, city officials said they're not giving up on Nike yet.

"It's a long shot, but we're taking the shot," Capell said.

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