t h e k n o w n a r o u n d t h e w o r l d S w o o s h
When it comes to supporting local business development efforts, Nike just does it.
The Nike retail store at Portland International Airport (PDX) is the Nike that you know: sleek, body-conscious clothing, shoes that defy gravity even when they’re sitting on the shelf. The hip, bright scene is smartly arranged, and customers are lured in by signs that feature no words, just Nike’s simple Swoosh – a trademark known around the world.
Local Brand/Global Icon Nike’s place in Portland International Airport’s Oregon Market is no small thing. Chris Madsen, the Port’s General Manager of Aviation Business and Properties, puts it bluntly: “Having Nike as a tenant helps make this a world-class airport. We’re so glad we can offer their products to our passengers.”
But Nike’s presence at PDX also reflects the dual nature of the state’s only Fortune 500 company: it’s one of the gems of the Oregon Market, a place where the region’s finest products are showcased, and yet it’s indelibly connected to the rest of the world. Just through security, travelers can access more than 50 nonstop destinations in five different countries. At PDX and beyond, Nike manages to simultaneously be a global giant and a conscientious local company.
Civic Leader “I can’t overstate Nike’s role in recruitment and retention of international air service to Portland,” says David Zielke, the Port’s General Manager of Air Service Development. “When airlines look at coming into a market, one of the first questions they ask is whether or not local companies will support the service. Nike has been a great partner to Lufthansa and Northwest Airlines. We’re not a market full of Fortune 500 companies – we have one.”
Ted Cullen, Nike’s Global Travel Director, oversees thousands of employee travel hours
much of it to international destinations. “Last
year, we booked about $40 million in tickets originating or ending in the metro area,” he says. For employees traveling to Europe or Asia, having direct flights makes a huge difference in time and hassle, and Cullen should know: he travels at least a week a month for his employer. But he also acknowledges the broader good: “You have to work together if you’re going to have a successful air program. It’s the right thing to do for the community, and we support our neighbors as best we can.”
International air service at PDX benefits plenty more people than those who travel on behalf of Nike. Each weekday, full Lufthansa
flights lift off for Frankfurt and destinations beyond, while each morning, Northwest Airline’s Tokyo service arrives with surprisingly rested-looking travelers toting laptops and neck pillows. “In addition to Nike, many other companies depend on the flights. The support of the entire local business community has been critical to the long-term sustainability of Portland’s nonstop international air service,” said Zielke. Several companies have relocated to the metropolitan area because of the air services.”
Getting the Shoes from A to B Passenger service is just part of the activity at PDX. Cargo is transported in the bellies of those large international flights as well as by cargo carriers like Air China, which has two flights a week to and from PDX. These cargo flights hold fresh offerings from around the region and return bearing products that are distributed across the Northwest.
Not surprisingly, a majority of Nike’s products are shipped by ocean, but air cargo is an invaluable export service for Nike, and the company works with three different air freight forwarders around the world. Again, the global leader has a local focus, and the air “bags” in Nike footwear are produced right here in Tigard, Oregon, before being flown to other locales for assembly. The finished products are then shipped by sea around the world.
John Isbell, Nike’s Director of Corporate Delivery Logistics, heads up the marine shipping program for Nike’s four worldwide regions. He describes his job: “If you were building a house, our department would install the plumbing.” Using that same analogy, each region is responsible for managing the water flow, or moving the product, using the transportation infrastructure that Isbell and his team help create. Expediency is key, and their end goal is for each region to be “as close to the market as we possibly can from the time an order is taken.” Isbell continues, “Our products are time-sensitive,” – the company is trying to make fashion, not follow it.
How to better connect parts of the world that are six thousand miles away? One of Nike’s strategies is its “direct ship program,” which sends approximately 60% of the company’s products directly to larger retailers’ distribution centers around the U.S. To ensure delivery speed, Nike requires that its six global carriers take responsibility for cargo door-to-door rather than port-to-port. Nike employs a diversified West Coast port strategy with almost 50 percent of its imports arriving in the Ports
of Long Beach, Los Angeles; a majority of the containers are then loaded onto on-dock railcars and sent to more than 60 inland destinations. Remaining domestic products are shipped to one of Nike’s three distribution centers in the U.S. Two are in Memphis, and the third is in Wilsonville. Nike uses the Port’s Terminal 6 facility and the Port of Seattle for imports to Wilsonville.
As one of the largest importers in the Northwest, Nike has strong leverage when negotiating shipping contracts with carriers. Still, that didn’t stop the company from participating on the Port’s Columbia River Container Service Committee, a group of business community stakeholders who worked to attract and retain shipping services for the area. The efforts of businesses large and small helped the Port bring two new shipping lines to the city this past spring.
Portland: The World’s Footwear Hub On a national level, Nike is a member of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, a trade group featuring the top names in athletic apparel. Each year, the organization holds its Footwear Transportation and Distribution Conference; three years ago, Nike chaired the conference. In fall 2007, the conference will be held here in Portland, and the Port of Portland is enthusiastically involved in planning the event.
Portland is the perfect location for this conference: the metropolitan area is blossoming into what many people are calling the “Footwear Capital of North America.” Adidas, which recently acquired Reebok, has based its U.S. headquarters in North Portland, and Keen and LaCrosse have relocated here, thanks in part to talented designers—many of whom are former Nike employees. The region’s diverse natural beauty doesn’t hurt either: another local brand, Columbia Sportswear, uses the sweeping Cascade Mountains and glacial rivers as inspiration for product development.
“Just Do-ing It” Green A healthy respect for this environment is where Nike’s regional identity is especially pronounced. Portland is known as a leader in the sustainability movement, which focuses on reducing environmental impacts so as not to compromise the livability of future generations. Nike has proven that a large, worldwide company can be committed to environmentally sound commerce and still turn a profit. Over the past twenty years, Nike has incorporated social responsibility into its
mission statement and, more importantly, into its everyday activities. This has meant reducing its use of chemicals in its products (the company has voluntarily reduced petroleum-based adhesives and PVC in its footwear), relying on post-consumer recycled paper, and recycling its own products into new, different products and resources. Worn-out running shoes have been reborn as running tracks, basketball courts, and weight room flooring as part of its program to encourage physical activity among kids around the world.
Close to home, the company’s headquarters near Beaverton in unincorporated Washington County received “Salmon Safe” certification in 2005, which recognized Nike’s efforts to manage non-native species, protect and restore habitat, and constantly improve the environmental health of its campus. The Green Building Council has honored Nike’s Ken Griffey Jr. building with a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) award for Existing Buildings. Employees are encouraged to carpool, and the company has partnered with local nonprofit Metafore to establish sound guidelines for paper procurement and usage.
Nike’s next move is right here at home: solar power at PDX. Over the next few months, the company will be installing solar photovoltaic (V) panels at Portland International Airport, which will collect solar radiation and convert it into useable electricity fed directly into the PDX power system. The panels will generate enough power to meet the electrical demands of Nike’s retail store at Oregon Market. Nike’s ultimate goal is to make all of its retail stores climate-neutral, meaning they generate their own power without negatively impacting the world’s climate, so this effort at PDX will prove informational as the company pursues this goal at other retail stores.
Deep Roots Not far from the Hillsboro Airport, where three of Nike’s corporate jets gleam inside a hangar identified, only by an elegant Swoosh, are Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton. Back in the early 1980s, the Port briefly owned the land before selling it to Nike, which then turned it into a bucolic corporate campus. By ground, air and sea, Nike and the Port of Portland have been long-time transportation business partners. In many ways, the region’s transportation systems owe much to Nike’s advocacy and use.
by Rachel Wray