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DaKine plans headquarters growth in Hood River

November 19, 2011

DaKine and Hood River belong together: That's the message company President Bill Bottomley echoed this week, as the action sports gear and apparel company plans to move out of its current Columbia Street location.

With backing by Billabong International Ltd., which acquired DaKine in 2008, the brand is expected to make solid growth across global markets in the coming years. And through whatever progression the company makes, its home base, Bottomley stressed, will remain with its roots in Hood River.

The company does need a new space, however, as it has outgrown its longtime downtown Hood River headquarters at the east end of a building currently owned by Full Sail Brewing.

The location has served DaKine well for the last 25 years. In earlier days, when humble board bags were top sellers and the company was still struggling to establish itself in the action sports industry, the space served many functions, including design and manufacturing, packaging, storage and shipping.

Today it's mostly office space and is DaKine's North America headquarters, where almost 100 percent of product design is done. A warehouse facility in The Dalles serves as the North America shipping, receiving and distribution center.

Full Sail Brewing, which has seen steady and significant growth of its own alongside DaKine, is also in need of more space at its neighboring beer manufacturing and bottling plant.

"It's a collaborative effort between DaKine, Full Sail and the Port of Hood River," Bottomley said about plans the three groups are working to solidify. In a swap of sorts, DaKine is looking to move into a waterfront building owned by the port; formerly the Hood River Expo Center and currently leased by Full Sail Brewing. Full Sail would then expand into the rest of its building on Columbia Street. "We're all working together on this for the same common goals, and the end game for all of us means positive momentum for the community of Hood River," Bottomley said.

DaKine made similar plans to lease the former Expo Center a few years ago, but the move was delayed due to the acquisition from Billabong. Bottomley said that moving the headquarters to another city after the acquisition was never on the table, and that being based in Hood River is vital to the identity of the brand.

"The premise was always to stay here in Hood River," he said. "The proximity to multiple world-class action sports is unique to essentially the entire planet, and being based in a community like this maintains the authenticity of the brand. Our testing grounds are right outside the door, so having the design headquarters in Hood River is ideal."

The move isn't expected to happen for more than a year and will require lease negotiations and renovation of the former Expo building once Full Sail has vacated it. However, following a roughly three-hour executive session Tuesday evening, the port's board of commissioners voted to approve a non-binding letter of intent with DaKine for the move.

The letter reflects the port's desire to enter into a long-term lease with the company and its willingness to repurpose the building prior to occupancy.

"That property is one of the few on the waterfront to be zoned commercial; the rest are light-industrial," said Michael McElwee, port executive director. "DaKine would be a great fit. It is a very important business for Hood River, both in numbers of employees and in the brand and the way in which it represents Hood River. To have that prominent local employer at the center of the waterfront would be beneficial not only for the rest of the waterfront but for the community as a whole."

With Billabong's reach across global markets, the company is anticipating large-scale growth with DaKine, particularly in relatively uncharted markets where the Billabong brand has a presence in but DaKine does not.

A strength DaKine has over Billabong, Bottomley noted, is a broader scope of products across multiple platforms. The Billabong image is tacked fairly firmly to the realm of surfing and watersports, while DaKine has a wide range of reputable products in skiing and snowboarding, windsurfing, kiteboarding, surfing, skateboarding, traveling and mountain biking industries, as well as apparel, accessory and bag lines that span all of the above.

Although Bottomley is optimistic, he hesitates to quantify job growth as the company continues to evolve.

"It's hard to effectively quantify what will happen over the near term, taking into consideration the evolutionary economic paradigm we are experiencing on a global scale," he said. "But our goal is to increase the presence of DaKine in the area, and to expand personnel and enhance positions in Hood River as the brand grows and needs arise. We've been in Hood River for a quarter century, and we plan to be here a lot longer."

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