Designer Knives Pay Dividends to Clackamas Manufacturer

Triple-digit export growth has helped Oregon City's Benchmade Knife Company grow to 180 employees with customers in 40 nations around the globe.

Business Oregon helped support Benchmade with a grant from its Oregon Trade Promotion Program. The grant helped the company defray costs associated with its participation in a 2011 Defense and Security Industry trade show in South America. In addition, a company official traveled with Governor Kitzhaber and Business Oregon officials on their business development mission to Asia in September 2011.

Rob Morrison, Benchmade's director of marketing and strategic planning, says Benchmade's exports have grown more than 180% over the past three years. Approximately 35% of the company's exports go to Asia, with China and Japan leading the way. The company's top-of-the-line American-made knives, which cost up to $2,000 each, are particularly in demand in China.

"International growth is a key strategic focus for us, particularly in markets that have an appreciation for high-quality, U.S.-made products," Morrison, who joined the Governor on the trip to Asia, said.

The company set up shop in Clackamas, Oregon, in 1990 (it was originally founded in California in 1988). It introduced its Designer Series in 1991 with several custom designs being manufactured. By tapping into the custom knife makers' knowledge and combining it with our manufacturing expertise we were more readily able to offer more contemporary knife designs and innovations to the knife users.

Consecutive years of aggressive growth led to the next logical step in 1996 when Benchmade moved into its own 35,000 sq. ft. facility. A contemporary styled building complete with all of the modern equipment and amenities necessary to manufacture what has become recognized as a higher standard of specialty cutlery.

In 2009, the Portland Business Journal picked Benchmade as Manufacturer of the Year for the state of Oregon. That same year, the Business Journal also recognized Benchmade as one of Oregon's Most Admired Companies within the Manufacturing Companies division.

All Benchmade branded knives and cutting tools are designed, manufactured, and assembled in Oregon City. The company's workforce has grown more than 30% in the past three years.

According to the most recent market share data from SportScanInfo®, the sporting goods industry's leading source for business information, Benchmade's market share of premium folding knives priced at $70 and higher is more than 60%. That's almost four times larger than our next competitor. Additionally, Benchmade has won the prestigious Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence award for Knife of the Year 11 of the 14 years the award has existed, including the past three straight years.