Oregon is home to some of the world’s most recognized brands in athletic and outdoor goods and apparel. Locally headquartered firms include Nike, Columbia Sportswear and the North American headquarters of Adidas.
Other recreation related firms flourish in communities around the state, from wind sports gear manufacturers in the Columbia Gorge to bicycle manufacturers in the Willamette Valley.

Note:  PDC anounced an industry led action plan with priority initiatives in each of the following areas: Leadership, Talent, Entrepreneurship/ Innovation, Connection/Advocacy, Sustainability and Branding. The development of the action plan was a collaborative effort between PDC, Business Oregon, the Oregon Business Council, PSU, Heike Mayer-University of Bern, and Joe Cortright-Impresa Consulting. For the full action plan, see: http://pdxathleticoutdoor.com.

Industry Overview

The Athletic & Outdoor Gear and Apparel Industry includes companies involved with the production and sales of footwear, apparel and gear associated with all kinds of indoor sports, bicycling, hiking, mountaineering, skiing, in-line skating, rock climbing, backpacking, camping, windsurfing, and other outdoor recreational activities.

Industry growth in the past 10 to 20 years has been propelled by the increasing popularity of outdoor recreational activities, new fabrics and technologies, and the fusion of outdoor-inspired styles in to more general fashion circles.

Footwear, Outdoor Gear and Apparel by the Numbers

This cluster consists of more than 300 firms with a payroll, and employs more than 14,000 Oregonians, at an average wage of more than $80,000 annually. In addition the cluster includes about 3,200 self-employed individuals with sales of $100 million annually.


Activewear & Outdoor Gear

Economic  Impact

Total Firms: 822 (2008)
Average Annual Wage: $82,700 (2009)
Employment Growth: 11.6% (2001-2008)
Direct Employment: 14,100 (2008) and 3,200 self-employed in the industry (2007)

 The Athletic and Outdoor Industry, A White Paper. Prepared by Joseph 

Cluster Strengths

  • Local Talent Base. Portland and Oregon have an exceptionally strong concentration of individuals with a combination of the creative and design skills and business acumen needed to succeed in the industry. Large and small firms identify talent as the key competitive factor in the industry, and point to the region’s abundant supply of talented workers with experience as the region’s chief economic asset for the athletic and outdoor cluster.
  • Sustainable Reputation – Oregonians’ deeply rooted commitment to sustainable policies, practices and lifestyles and its requirements for protecting natural resources make this state a Nirvana for companies seeking enlightenment in green practices and an outdoor mecca for their employees.
  • Geographic Location – Direct flights connect Oregon to Asia, Mexico, Canada, as well as West Coast, Midwest and East Coast cities. This facilitates connections between West Coast designers and material sourcing and manufacturing, a majority of which is conducted in Asia. The connectivity also promotes commerce and the exchange of ideas.
  • Active Lifestyle – Oregonians have a reputation for the pursuit of active lifestyles and an awareness and desire to have a life-work balance that is attractive to creative talent.  The region’s great environment, abundant recreational opportunities, and widespread sustainability ethic attracts and helps root here the kinds of workers who help the industry to flourish.

Cluster Challenges

  • Lack of a unifying group or organizational body – There has been no single unifying organization for companies to articulate key issues, challenges, and opportunities. The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) operates at the national level and serves a very broad industry membership.
  • Taxes and Fees – The City of Portland Business License Fee and Business Income Tax are not competitive with other jurisdictions in the region.
  • Design – Oregon does not have a nationally or globally recognized design program.  Many designers are recruited from outside of Oregon. 

Key Initiatives

In November 2010, the Portland Development Commission released the Athletic and Outdoor Action Plan for 2010-2012.  Key initiatives include:

  • LEADERSHIP: Establish industry leadership group charged with defining industry vision, strategy, priorities, and driving implementation of the action plan.
  • TALENT: Develop and expand athletic and outdoor industry education and training programs through industry and educational partnerships that prepare Oregonians to compete for jobs in this global industry.
  • ENTREPRENEURSHIP/ INNOVATION: Provide resources to help cultivate the knowledge, community, and expertise necessary for assisting emerging entrepreneurs, start-up and existing businesses, while furthering Portland’s visibility as a global design center.
  • CONNECTION/ ADVOCACY: Facilitate industry leadership connections that inform, inspire, educate, and advocate.
  • SUSTAINABILITY: Support and establish efforts to further sustainability within the industry.
  • BRANDING: Celebrate and acknowledge Portland and Oregon athletic and outdoor industry firms by providing greater visibility for the athletic and outdoor industry brand and the lifestyle that informs it.

Cluster Contact

The Portland Development Commission has taken the lead on organizing the companies within the Athletic and Outdoor Cluster. To learn more about the recent study and action plan and join the Athletic and Outdoor Industry mailing list, click here.