SEATTLE -- Running is not just a growing sport, it’s a growth business and could mean hundreds of new jobs over the next decade in Western Washington.
Seattle based Brooks Running Co. has a 90 year history in the athletic apparel business. In 2001 Jim Weber took over as CEO and focused the company on running and running shoes.
“Wow, I don’t think there’s a better place in the world for a running brand,” says Weber. “This is a community that celebrates the outdoors, that celebrates getting outdoors and moving.”
Weber says half a million people run marathons every year in the US. But he says it’s all the other runs that are growing by leaps and bounds.
“The color runs have grown, the adventure runs have grown, the 5ks are growing and the half has been a real growth vehicle,” says Weber.
It all has to do with the evolution of running in the eyes of the public. Weber says the shift began in the 1990s and continues at a rapid pace. He says people want to connect with others and be social.
Which is why he predicts big growth for Brooks in Seattle.
“In Seattle alone we’ve got about 400 employees and we plan to grow that significantly over the next 10 years,” says Weber. “We want to create jobs.”
Some of those jobs may even include manufacturing
“If we can bring back manufacturing we would love to do that,” says Weber. “It’s going to take some time but I think it’ll happen.”
Weber says 99% of athletic shoe manufacturing left the US forty to fifty years ago. But he says advances in technology and manufacturing means that is changing across the industry.
“We’re gonna see shoes, athletic shoes, in a more significant way being built in the United States or at least North America in the next five years,” says Weber.
Still he cautions Brooks is a global company and ignoring that fact would be a detriment to business.
“We don’t want to see the US shrink in its importance in engaging with 7-billion people around the world in this global market place,“ says Weber. “Open trade is good for everybody, we really believe that.”
As for his own love of running, perhaps surprisingly Weber says it’s not about distance or speed.
“Truth be told, I’m probably the slowest person at Brooks and that’s not an exaggeration,” says Weber. “I’ve run for 30 years, it’s mental therapy for me.”
It’s about getting out and moving he says. Which sounds a lot like his business philosophy and how he leads Brooks Running Co.
“97-percent of the people who run feel better after they run than before. Not everyone is enjoying the process along the way. But that’s really what we’ve tapped into.”