Kitzhaber calls special Nike session

Company seeks locked-in tax regime

By Lauren Dake / The Bulletin

SALEM — Gov. John Kitzhaber called lawmakers into a special session this Friday with the hope of paving the way for sportswear giant Nike to expand its operations in Oregon.

The deal: Nike invests at least $150 million and creates a minimum of 500 good-paying jobs over a five-year period and Oregon won’t alter its tax code after the investment is made.

The governor called it “a huge win” for the state.

The company, Kitzhaber said, is prepared to make a serious investment, if the state “can give them certainty on the investment climate during that time.”

The 2013 legislative session begins Jan. 14, but Kitzhaber said there was a “sense of urgency” because the company based in Washington County is being wooed by other states.

The governor hopes lawmakers will pass legislation Friday that allows him to strike a deal with Nike and any other company that proposes similar expansion.

Kitzhaber is calling it the “Economic Impact Investment Act” and noted it will not impact state revenue.

Kitzhaber said he would evaluate the deal based on the current capital investment, the expected investment and any other factors he believes economically important.

An analysis of Nike by a global professional services firm that Kitzhaber noted in his speech estimates the economic impact of a potential expansion could be more than $2 billion a year and more than 12,000 jobs by 2020.

Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, pointed out that Phil Knight, who co-founded the company, owns property in Central Oregon.

The governor said he did not know where the company planned to expand.

“Maybe they will come to Central Oregon,” Whisnant quipped.

The company’s headquartered in Beaverton. Even if the expansion isn’t planned for this region, Whisnant said, it’s good news.

“It’s great to help existing companies,” Whisnant said, “We tend to focus on new companies. We have to help business expand in Oregon, the ones who have stuck with us in good times and bad.”