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Governor asks lawmakers to help lure Nike jobs

Whisnant weighs in on tax code proposal

Ore. Gov. wants to help expand Nike

SALEM, Ore. - Nike wants to expand its operations in Oregon, but first wants the governor to promise not to change the tax code.  Governor John Kitzhaber has called a special legislative session this Friday to do just that.

Kitzhaber announced the special session at a news conference Monday morning.

During that session, lawmakers will consider granting Nike's wish. The new law would essentially give a tax break to large Oregon companies like Nike.

Kitzhaber called it a new economic tool that has no fiscal impact on the state.

And the governor said it's an opportunity the state can't afford to miss.

"I do not make this extraordinary decision lightly," Kitzhaber said. "But Oregon has an extraordinary opportunity to create jobs and to deliver on the central pillars of the Oregon Business Plan."

And that opportunity is in Nike.

"Nike is ready to commit to a significant expansion of its Oregon operations," Kitzhaber said.

Nike is one of only two Fortune 500 companies in Oregon; the other is Precision Castparts.

Employment at the company has grown 60 percent since 2007.

Kitzhaber is asking lawmakers this week to approve the Economic Impact Investment Act.

The act would allow the governor to make agreements to any company committing to a minimum of 500 jobs and $150 million in capital investment over five years.

The Legislature also would promise not to change tax rules after the company makes a new investment.

Sunriver Rep. Gene Whisnant tells NewsChannel 21 this is a step in the right direction.

"Many times, (when) we talk about providing tax incentives or government incentives to help business, we talk about new business. But here we are talking about an existing business that has helped employ a lot of Oregonians," Whisnant said.

And if Nike expands, the economic impacts would be huge.

Estimates say the expansion could generate $2 billion a year, with more than 12,000 new direct and indirect jobs by 2020.  

"We understand, and I think if anyone, it would be Nike that has money that they can spend and invest. But they are uncertain about the tax future nationally and in the state," Whisnant said.

Other states have expressed interest in Nike's expansion, but now legislators will vote to see if the project can happen in Oregon.

"I think it's a good day for the state, and it's worth me spending an extra couple of days (in Salem) to help the governor get this," Whisnant said.

The governor didn't give any specifics on where the expansion would take place.

But NewsChannel 21 asked Whisnant if there was any chance it could be here in Central Oregon.

He said Phil Knight's major home is in Deschutes County, so he hopes at least some of the jobs do come to Central Oregon.

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