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Boise was finalist for Oregon sportswear giant’s manufacturing plant. Arizona got it

The state of Arizona pulled incentives to lure a Nike manufacturing plant to the state after Nike pulled a shoe with a U.S. flag with 13 white stars in a circle, known as the Betsy Ross flag. Nike acted after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick complained to the shoemaker. Nike still picked Goodyear, Arizona, for the plant over Boise. Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Boise was a finalist this summer for a big Nike manufacturing plant that instead will be built in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.

The Phoenix Business Journal has identified Boise as the other finalist for the $184.5 million plant that will employ more than 500 people and make the air soles that go into Nike Air shoes.

An email sent in June by Lori Gary, the city of Goodyear’s economic development director, to Goodyear City Manager Julie Arendall said the Arizona market was “$2.5 million more expensive than a competing location, which documents revealed to be Boise,” the newspaper reported.

As a result, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council sought $2 million from a state “deal-closing fund,” Gary wrote in the June 3 email, obtained by the newspaper through a public records request. The money is in addition to $500,000 the state had already committed for the project.

The state incentives were later withdrawn after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey became upset with Nike. He sent out a tweet at 2:04 a.m. on July 2 ordering the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentives the state was providing for the company to locate in Goodyear.

His anger stemmed from Nike’s decision not to sell a special sneaker adorned with an early design of the American flag. The Beaverton, Oregon, company abandoned the shoe design after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a Nike spokesman, expressed concerns that the so-called Betsy Ross design was being used by white supremacist groups.

Arizona officials, including Chris Camacho, CEO of the economic council, speculated the withdrawal might cause Nike to go elsewhere.

“I’m sad for the citizens this would have employed if the project gets pulled,” the Phoenix Business Journal said Camacho wrote in an email to Gary and a Goodyear economic development project manager.

The Arizona Republic reported on July 1 that Nike planned to open the plant on the west side of Phoenix. The news came the day after the Goodyear City Council signed off on the deal.

Within five years of the plant’s opening, Nike said, it would employ at least 505 workers who would earn an average salary of $48,514 per year, including overtime and bonuses. It said the company would pay for at least 65% of employees’ health-care premiums and would invest at least $184.5 million in an existing building that will house the plant.

Documents obtained by the Business Journal showed there was originally a $24 million cost difference in favor of Boise over Goodyear. Officials in Goodyear worked to increase the city’s incentive package, which eventually was worth more than $2 million and was unaffected by the governor’s tweet.

Goodyear had worked since late April to obtain the Nike deal, the newspaper said. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council forwarded Goodyear a request for proposals for the plant. City officials spent several months talking with Nike’s site selector, Rachel Gradner of CBRE in Chicago, before the decision was made.

A Nike representative speaking by phone asked that a Statesman request for comment be sent by email. A reply had not come by the time this story was published.

Mike Journee, a spokesman for Boise Mayor David Bieter, declined to comment to the Statesman, referring a reporter to the Boise Valley Economic Partnership. Neither Clark Krause, the partnership’s executive director, nor John Brunelle, executive director for the Capital City Development Corp., the city’s urban development agency, could be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

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