Business & economy

California motorcycle accessory firm moves distribution hub to Malheur County

Bill Michaels, vice president of Pacific Powersports Inc., said he anticipates his shift to Ontario will be a good move. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

ONTARIO – Standing in the center of the old Pepsi warehouse in east Ontario last week, Bill Michaels said he decided to come to America because needed a new carpet for his home.

It was the mid-1970s and Michaels and his wife Ineke lived just outside of Rotterdam, a city in Holland.

Then in their 30s, the couple talked about a new carpet but that conversation turned to buying a new home. Then they were talking about California, where Ineke’s brother lived.

“So, we thought ‘let’s go.’ We sold everything we had and moved to California,” said Michaels.

Ontario and Rotterdam have few similarities but 40 years after he left Europe, Michaels is ready to make eastern Oregon his new home.

This week, Michaels, vice president and part owner of Pacific Powersports Inc., said he expects to see equipment and parts arrive at the old Pepsi plant at 781 S.E. 9th Ave.

The 15,000-square-foot warehouse will serve as the main wholesale distribution hub for the company that offers off-road motorcycle tires, riding boots, backpacks, motorcycle wheels, and seat covers for retail outlets across the West. Michaels said his company would transfer all of its holdings, equipment and merchandise to Ontario.

Michaels said he and his ex-son-in-law began Pacific Powersports 16 years ago in Temecula, California.

“We are a small, family-owned business,” said Michaels.

Michaels, 73, said he was looking to relocate his business because the costs of operating in California were too high.

“Economically it wasn’t feasible for a business my size to survive there. Most California businesses have run out of room and leasing and buying a warehouse, we just can’t afford it,” said Michaels.

Michaels said he learned about Ontario through a business associate.

“They moved to Caldwell about two years ago and were really happy. But by the time we started looking in Caldwell, it was not as affordable and we couldn’t find the right building,” said Michaels.

Michaels said two months ago his real estate agent heard about property in Ontario.

Dan Cummings, the city economic development director, said Pepsi moved out of the warehouse in 2005. Since then, he said, different businesses used the building for storage. California first attracted Michaels because of its business climate.

“Coming from heavily-regulated system in Holland to California, for an entrepreneur, was heaven. You could get things done,” he said.

That isn’t the case now, said Michaels, and that is why his company chose Ontario.

“The permitting process, for an industrial building, takes you a year or a year and a half. Here it was a couple of days,” said Michaels. Michaels believes Pacific Powersports Inc. would be successful in Ontario.

“I wouldn’t come all the way here and start over again if I didn’t think so,” said Michaels.