Columbia Sportswear Chief Executive Tim Boyle said congressional Republicans' proposed tax overhaul could mean higher taxes for Oregon employees if, under the changes, they can no longer deduct state income taxes from their federal tax bill.
The remarks came in an interview after Boyle addressed a crowd of business and civic leaders Monday at a lunch in downtown Salem.
In town for the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce event, Boyle touched on the GOP tax plan, his apparel company's revamped marketing strategy and a recent controversy over whether one of Columbia's subsidiaries, Sorel, will move out of downtown Portland because of the city's homeless problem.
Boyle says it's still unclear how the GOP's proposed changes will affect his business.
“For a company like Columbia, which is global, our taxation is incredibly complex. It spans geographies, rates and, you know, jurisdictions that have various tax rates," he said in an interview with the Statesman Journal after addressing civic leaders gathered in the first-floor ballroom at the Salem Convention Center.
Boyle said he doesn't know if anyone has a bead on what the final tax plan will look like. House and Senate leaders are reconciling their two versions, both of which passed along party lines, before sending the tax overhaul to the president to sign.
"We don’t know what it’s going to mean for us because of the complex nature of our taxation," he said.
He also expressed uncertainty about whether the plan, under which the corporate tax rate is poised to fall from 35 percent to either 20 or 22 percent, will actually spur investment by companies.
“Even though they call economics a science, it’s not like physics or chemistry, where these are known outcomes," Boyle said. "These are theoretical outcomes. So who knows what the changes really mean. It’s to be determined. It’s not like gravity."
A recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll revealed that only 32 percent of Americans are for the Republican tax plan, while 48 percent of respondents are against it, making it less popular than the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
State needs to address homelessness
During his speech, Boyle briefly addressed controversy stemming from a November opinion piece in The Oregonian in which he said moving the headquarters of Sorel into downtown Portland might have been "a mistake."
"Our celebration of our new offices ended swiftly," he wrote. "We were immediately receiving reports from employees that they were being hassled, harassed and threatened by individuals near our office."
Boyle disclosed to civic leaders Monday the move was aimed as a show of support for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's efforts to address homelessness.
But recently an employee, a woman from New York, was chased into the street by someone attempting to kill her, he said.
She was with two other women, one from Boston and the other Philadelphia, he said.
"These are woman who are not unused to working in an urban environment. But that was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back," Boyle said.
Company officials were unsure about whether the city is "safe enough" for employees to work there, drawing both support and criticism, "which is fine," he said.
Boyle called for immediate support of Wheeler's proposal to grow the city's police force by 80 officers. "Frankly, based on our employees' experiences, we would suggest even more support for the Portland police," he wrote.
Columbia's flagship store in downtown Portland briefly closed earlier this month as protesters gathered outside, with the demonstration's organizers arguing Boyle's op-ed piece triggered an increased police presence there.
"Basically, we had to close our downtown Portland store last weekend because of a demonstration by folks who felt differently than I did," he told the crowd Monday.
Boyle said addressing homelessness falls not just to elected officials in city and county governments, but also to those holding state offices.
"I hope they've heard me," he said. "And if they haven't, I'd appreciate it if you would say something to them."
Columbia expands marketing campaign
Efforts are underway at the Columbia apparel brand — one of four companies under the larger Columbia Sportswear Co. — to market more aggressively.
Boyle said while the company has striven to set itself apart, it still hasn't told the Columbia story loudly enough. Columbia spends about 5 percent of its sales revenue on marketing, whereas many competitors spend as much as 12 percent, he said.
"We know we need to spend more money," Boyle said.
He pointed to the company's Tested Tough campaign, which kicked off in 2015, as "the benchmark for our global processes for marketing the company."
One of the campaign ads features actor Zac Efron, his brother, Dylan, and Boyle's mother, Gert Boyle, chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear Co.
"Under the category of being different: Many of our competitors use photographs or videos of very attractive, young people — and we use my mom," Boyle said, drawing laughs.
Reach staff reporter Jonathan Bach by email at email@example.com or by phone at 503-399-6714. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMBach and Facebook at www.facebook.com/jonathanbachjournalist/.