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Daimler Trucks to expand in north Portland

9/17/2013, 4:59 p.m.
Daimler Trucks North America announced Friday it will expand its north Portland headquarters, bringing 400 high-paying jobs to the local ...
Daimler Trucks North America announced Friday it would build a new corporate headquarters on Swan Island in north Portland, bringing hundreds of jobs to the city. An artist’s rendering shows what the building might look like along the banks of the Willamette River.

Daimler Trucks North America announced Friday it will expand its north Portland headquarters, bringing 400 high-paying jobs to the local economy.

The economic boost comes with about $20 million in incentives from local and state government agencies.

The company plans to construct a new building on the company’s existing campus on Swan Island. The 265,000-square-foot, LEED Platinum-certified headquarters will cost $150 million and is slated for completion in 2016. It will provide space for a new workforce of white-collar jobs paying around $80,000, including benefits.

Daimler makes heavy-duty trucks and school buses under brands that include Freightliner, Western Star and Thomas Built. The German company already employs about 2,800 people at its North American headquarters in Portland, including about 750 people in blue-collar manufacturing jobs.

Daimler has large operations in North and South Carolina and had considered expanding there.

Explaining the decision to stay in Portland, Daimler Trucks North America CEO Martin Daum cited the city's quality of life, the company's existing workforce and its history. Freightliner Corp. was founded in Portland in the 1940s before being acquired by Daimler.

"I think the city and the history creates a little bit of culture and the soul of a company, and you can't rip the soul out," Daum said at a news conference. "You might get lost afterward."

Daum said the new building should suit the company for at least the next 20 years.

The company will get about $4 million from economic development accounts managed by the state of Oregon and about $15 million from the city of Portland. The incentives include forgivable loans and property tax abatements, some of which are tied to company promises to maintain its existing jobs and create new ones.

Daimler's decision to expand in Portland will protect not just its white-collar headquarters jobs but the manufacturing positions as well, said Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat.

"I'm very, very proud that Oregon continues to be one of the best places for advanced manufacturing in the country," Kitzhaber said.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales also praised the company's decision and touted the advantages of manufacturing jobs.

"It's great that we make software, we make apps and we make movies here," Hales said. "But I love it especially that we make real things and sell them to the world."

The company said it will donate $330,000 to local schools to support science, technology, engineering and math education along with internship programs to encourage young people to pursue manufacturing jobs when they graduate from high school.

The current Daimler plant on Swan Island makes up to 30 Western Star semi-trucks per day. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said it's an honor that the company picked the Rose City to consolidate its North American operations.

"That the company chose Portland is a vote of confidence in the Oregon economy, in the state’s workforce and in Daimler’s long and prosperous association with the Pacific Northwest," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.