Panel will discuss Portland as bike manufacturing hub

In the shop with Joseph Ahearne
Bikes sit in the shop of
a local bike maker.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A panel discussion set for tomorrow night in Northwest Portland will deal with the topic of turning Portland into a manufacturing hub for bicycles and other “21st century active transportation products.”

The panel will be moderated by Portland architect Rick Potestio and will feature Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach and PUBLIC Bikes. Joining Forbes will be the co-founder of Beloved Cycles, Matt Stein; United Bicycle Institute founder Ron Sutphin; and Cameron Larson with Chris King Precision Components.

The discussion is being billed as an “informal discussion between people interested in seeing Portland become a center for the manufacture of 21st century active transportation products” (a category which they define as including shoes, bikes, skateboards, streetcars, and even electric cars).

Reached via telephone in San Francisco, Forbes said he’s hosting the discussion in Portland due our “sophisticated” bike industry and the potential we have to someday be an exporter of bicycles. “I was inspired by Oregon’s ability to manufacture their own streetcars,” Forbes said, “we thought we could have an interesting discussion on getting things made in the U.S. and looking at realistic ways to do that.”

Forbes launched PUBLIC Bikes in 2010 and says he was surprised at how the industry was dominated by overseas manufacturing. “When we launched, one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the degree at which the market is really dominated by Taiwan and China.” (Note: PUBLIC Bikes are made in Taiwan.)

I’m happy to see this discussion taking place. Back in May 2009 we published an in-depth story titled, Could Portland become a bike industry hub?. In that article, reporter Libby Tucker shared the challenges and opportunities Portland faces in becoming a serious bike manufacturer. Here’s an excerpt:

“Taiwan’s bicycle industry is a competitive force to be reckoned with. Its tightly clustered, efficient industry has been dubbed the ‘A-team’ because of its coordinated efforts to assemble parts manufacturers, painters and other industry experts within an hour’s drive of the large assemblers. The industry has become so efficient that some 85 percent of Chinese bike manufacturers have signed onto joint ventures with Taiwanese companies.

Despite the challenges, heavyweights in Portland’s bike industry and elsewhere think Oregon would be a logical place for bicycle manufacturing to rise again.”

Details on the event are below:

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