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Is major Portland frame maker headed to Vancouver?

Posted by on August 15th, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Inside the Sapa factory.
(Photo: Sapa)

A company based in Northeast Portland that produces tens of thousands of bicycle frames per year might be on its way to Vancouver.

A story published on July 30 in the The Columbian, Aluminum company might bring 900 jobs to Vancouver, details that documents filed with the City of Vancouver for a new development near Vancouver Lake point directly to (but do not specifically mention) Sapa Profiles Inc..

You may not have ever heard of them, but Sapa is one of the country’s largest makers of extruded aluminum products and one of their main focus areas is high-end bicycle frames.

Sapa produces frames and frame parts for well-known brands like Titus, Moots, Turner, and many other larger brands that industry sources tell me they are not at liberty to identify.

The story in The Columbian all but confirms the move, but the company denies it. A source at Sapa told me this morning that, “We’re denying that. That’s not happening.”

Eric Holmes, the economic development services manager for the City of Vancouver also won’t confirm any other details. “I cannot confirm the Sapa move,” he wrote in an email, “any more than what was reported in the Columbian.”

But even with no one willing to confirm it, if I were a betting man, I would put money on hearing soon that Sapa will no longer be based in Portland. Stay tuned.

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Comments
  • Jeff Ong August 15, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Moots makes aluminum bikes? I thought they were all Ti… Maybe some Al rear triangles for full-suspension models, but it\’s surprising/disappointing to think they may outsource these.

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  • Adam August 15, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    It\’s this kind of thing that makes me think that a big weak spot in Oregon, and especially in Portland is our business friendly factor. Speaking strictly in terms of tax incentives and license fees and so forth, Oregon does not rank very high on the scale of business-friendly states, andthe city of Portland adds additional taxes and fees. I think it is a worthwhile thing to reconsider our stance toward business in this town as the bike industry booms. It is a sad thing when the nation\’s most bike friendly city is not business friendly, so the bike businesses relocate outside of the most bike friendly city. I don\’t know what the answer is, but I hope that city hall and Salem are picking up on the cues.

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  • J.M. August 15, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Moots absolutely does not get their frames produced from Sapa. They do outsource the rear section of their full suspension frames. Sapa may be the mauifacturer of these parts, but I don\’t know.
    Having been to their factory I\’m quite sure that Moots frames are hand welded in SteamBoat Springs Co. Bare Titanium with nothing more than Lemon Pledge wiped on at the end (it\’s true!).
    It\’s great that Sapa produces so many frames domestically, but unless they move to Vancouver B.C., I don\’t think it\’s that big of a deal. U.S. made is U.S. made. We can\’t be possessive of all things bike related in Portland. I\’d like to think that Portland could be a springboard for bike related companies. With a good foundation in Portland the sky is the limit…

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  • David Feldman August 15, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Funny thing–there\’s a powder-coat paint company right next to where the Columbian said they want to locate a bike frame plant.

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  • Paolo August 15, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    My Santa Cruz bike was built by Sapa.
    Great bikes….

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  • cab August 15, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Not business friendly? Why do we employee 100,000 vancouverites if they are so business friendly compared to us? Lets end the myth, Portland my not give up the ass for big corporate companies, but our neighborhood businesses are booming.

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  • nuovorecord August 15, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Adam – pure speculation on your part. Let\’s dispense with this idea that Portland is not friendly to business. Forbes Magazine ranked it the 35th best city in the nation to do business out of 200 US Metro areas.

    http://www.forbes.com/lists/2008/1/bestplaces08_Best-Places-For-Business-And-Careers_Rank.html

    I suspect David\’s observation (#3) is more the reason for the move than anything.

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  • BURR August 15, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    who cares? too many tax incentives is not good for the local economy, let them go…

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  • bean August 16, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Burr, Do you indeed know that Sapa does get tax incentives? Most businesses in Mult. County do not get incentives, and most get charged an arm and a leg in taxes. Even small 1- 10 person businesses get hammered. I don\’t blame sapa if they want to go. Oregon will miss out on the income taxes.

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  • mark August 16, 2008 at 11:32 am

    it\’s a well known fact that Oregon and Portland especially, are not business friendly. Small businesses maybe, but not major companies. Why do you think there are so many companies based in places like Dallas, TX and Chicago, IL and such? They do everything they can to entice business and corporate hq\’s. I certainly don\’t want Portland to be like Dallas (I grew up there) but it would be nice to have a few more job options.

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  • Patrick August 16, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    So what exactly is the news here?

    What we\’ve got is pure speculation, nothing confirmed.

    I heard somewhere in the midwest one of the world\’s largest shoe companies is thinking about relocating there. Hmm, let\’s see Nike and Addias both fit that description?

    Sapa is probably making the move, but sounds like someone is just trying to position themselves for the scoop here.

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  • Zaphod August 16, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    I work in the computer industry and my office is in Vancouver, WA. Most commute from Oregon. Why is it there? Cost. I don\’t have the details on the decision but it made the most (financial) sense to pay for some rather nice digs built to spec for us. I\’d prefer to be in core downtown PDX.

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  • john August 16, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Yeah i have been looking at starting a small busniness… Holy Cow, its so damn complicated, So much stuff to figure out, none individually too complicated, but so many taxes and so many little things to track or file or registar for, that its almost impossible to figure out yourself, so hell with it, why bother? Its so complicated that they add even more complicated things like Small business development and small business help stuff to help complicate the complication. Then IRS taxes are so complicated you need an army of accountants. I would gladly pay more tax if only I didn\’t have to waste half my life trying to figure them out.

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  • Ben August 16, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Hmmmmm…. I wonder if they would sell blemished frames to us Vancouverites now.

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  • Jeff August 16, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I believe Moots\’ rear triangles are made by Ventana, actually… although I suppose it\’s possible that Sapa does their production!

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  • tony pereira August 17, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Moots has at least one all Aluminum model, the Smoothie AL. It is likely made by Sapa. And why not?–they do great work. It would be unfortunate to lose them to the couve.
    As for starting a small business in Portland. It\’s not that hard. I did it and I knew nothing when I started.

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  • Moo August 18, 2008 at 7:29 am

    Big deal…Vancouver sucks and we all know it! They must be getting something for nothing to go there.

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  • Lenny Anderson August 18, 2008 at 9:18 am

    This outfit is not leaving the Portland/Vancouver metro area, so what\’s the big deal. We need more jobs in Clark county. The jobs balance across the River is terrible.
    Businesses move for various reasons…to be closer to customers and suppliers, to have more space, to be closer to where the CEO lives (don\’t laugh, its true.) Taxes and transportation are relatively minor matters. Recent moves out of Swan Island were due to need for larger facilities and customer/supplier proximity.
    The reason Portland does not have more national concerns is: 1. we are a long way from most markets, and 2. we dis-invest in education, spending way more for prisons than for higher ed. Talent and innovation drive the economy, not tax incentives.

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  • Bill August 18, 2008 at 10:08 am

    to post #1 and #3: Moots builds all their own ti products in-house in Steamboat Springs. Moots does not build the aluminum frame sections they include on some of their full suspension bikes. Ventana actually makes most of these for Moots and Sapa has been used to build the rear-end for the Zirkel frame. The Smoothie AL hasnt been produced in about four years and those were made by Ventana. While it might seem disappointing to you, Moots chooses to manufacture what they do best and leave aluminum welding to those that have the equipment and expertise to do that well.

    Its my opinion that Portland does not offer great incentive for small to medium sizes businesses. The fact that our small neighborhood businesses may be flourishing, such as post #6 suggests, in my opinion has to do with the hard work and sacrifice of said business owners, not to mention the great community of ours that supports and rewards local, small business. Portland seems to give tax incentivea to big corporations and land developers (loft builders who cash in on big tax incentives/PDC grants and then high real estate market values when they sell). Ever tried working with the PDC??

    John of post #13: starting a business in Portland may seem like a daunting task but its really not all that difficult. Once done you wonder why it seemed so hard in the first place. There are many things you need to do, but as with most things rewarding, there are barriers to entry of everyone would do it. I recommend talking to current business owners to get knowledge and advice on what you need to do, where to go and setting up a schedule to get these things done. Youre going to find that your hard work isnt in setting up all these initial things with city, state and federal government, but establishing the business and making it profitable without consuming all your free time….

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  • Bill August 18, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Jonathan,
    I have to ring in with Patrick in #11. Where is the story here? it does sound like pure speculation that couldve been better served as a story if you held out for more information. If I was you Id be talking to Ellsworth about a reported layoff of a chunk of their employees, several who orginally left Sapa to work for the brand in Vancouver. connection? probably not, but interesting given all the connections.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 18, 2008 at 11:01 am

    patrick said:
    \”So what exactly is the news here?\”

    Bill said:
    \”Where is the story here? it does sound like pure speculation that couldve been better served as a story if you held out for more information.\”

    The news is that Sapa is moving to Vancouver… or at least that\’s what I believe given my little investigation. I could not confirm this, but I have a very strong hunch about it.

    Sure, the story would have been much better if I could have confirmed the news… but I felt like it was important enough to mention before then.

    Thanks for your concern about my editorial decisions.

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  • Aneurin August 18, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Again, what\’s with all the hate for the \’Couv? Can\’t Portland share the wealth?

    Building a strong bike culture means building it regionally. There\’s plenty of Vancouverites who are willing to go to the mat in support of improved transportation options, so stop generalizing us.

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  • Hillsons August 18, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    To answer your question Aneurin, the couve\’s sprawl is not a friend of the bicycle, or any other alternate mode of transportation. Across the river it seems like land is treated like a cheap commodity that won\’t run out.

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  • tony August 19, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    jonathin-
    any more stories that you have hunches about. sapa still denying it, vancouver denying it… is there another aluminum company here? yup. cmon…

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 19, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    hey tony,

    i\’ve got a lot of hunches. i don\’t write about all of them though.

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  • Lester L. August 19, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    the couve\’s sprawl? Are you talking about just within the city limits or suburbs too?

    Vancouver\’s in a different stage of evolution than Portland. Most of Portland\’s streets were layed out at least 75 years ago. I still pass by a farm on my commute just north of Vancouver. I hope they never sell, buy I\’m sure it will happen. In a few years, instead of saying hi to the cattle and chickens, I\’ll be rolling by bistros and vintage clothing shops.

    Anyways, think of Vancouver like Beaverton/Hillsboro a couple years ago.

    While I hope my home and workplace never become incorporated into Vancouver proper, I wouldn\’t say Vancouver sucks.

    It\’s different than Portland, so some may not like it, but I do.

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  • Lester L. August 19, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Oh, and if there\’s another big company moving into the Port of Vancouver, I\’m stoked!

    Downtown Vancouver is becoming less and less of a dead zone every year and I\’d imagine 900 more jobs would help liven things up down there a bit.

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  • Erik August 19, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    I appreciate the comment of #3 about how Portland can be a springboard for many things cycling, a jumping off place, an exporter of bike culture.

    Case in point, a thriving bike racing team named Tireless Velo is based across the Columbia. Many of its members live in Vancouver and its ajacents, and these folks come all the way to my bike shop for sales and service. And they\’re not alone. I of course have them to thank, but I also have OBRA and Portland\’s local bike racing calender to thank. I find myself coming to the defense of #22 and #26/27, big-tenters in the smaller city.

    On another note, it is interesting how a well-sourced but unconfirmed article can lead to a debate about editorial content. I did not figure the headline would\’ve led to the barbs of #24 and #25.

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  • Aneurin August 19, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Hillsons — we\’re working on the sprawl, believe me. We just had our county commission primary tonight and things look encouraging on that front.

    What\’s going to tamp down on Clark County sprawl in the long run is the high cost of gas. That\’s going to work much more rapidly than any political change at this point.

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  • Adron August 21, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Economic factors always effect (affect?) change faster than political ones do. It is arguable that political \”change\” is really nothing more than slight reactions to what already starts happening in the market, economy, and the attitudes of people anyway.

    …at least in the US & general Democratic Republics. Slightly different behavior is seen in other places depending on the Governments.

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  • Matthew Denton August 25, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    And now the port is denying it too…

    http://www.columbian.com/business/businessNews/2008/08/08252008_Aluminum-plant-not-coming-to-Vancouver-at-least-for-now.cfm

    \”We\’re preparing to start marketing the property again for development\”

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  • CW February 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Come on…it doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to figure out why they are/will leave. Oregon is not a business friendly state. Taxes are killing businesses. When you can go back and retroactively tax a business off of GROSS sales/income instead of net income it will kill start up businesses as well as established companies. I work here in Portland and we employ 210 people. We will ultimately move north to avoid the punitive taxes this State is imposing. Folks, look at Calif. because that is where we are headed. The Government can’t continue to outspend the tax revenue it takes in and expect to ask businesses to continue to fund the ‘drunken sailors’ we have in Salem. Your job could be next.

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