Kyocera celebrates expansion in Vancouver, Washington

Kyocera Industrial Ceramics Corporation celebrated the completion of a $10 million expansion project in Vancouver on Thursday.

The project, which broke ground last April, increased the size of Kyocera’s 23,000-square-foot Vancouver manufacturing facility by about 50 percent, to 63,000 square feet. The plant is located at 5713 E Fourth Plain Blvd.

Robert Whisler, president of Kyocera America Inc., said the expansion will create at least 50 new jobs over the next few years. The facility currently employs approximately 140 employees.

“This market (for ceramics) is growing very quickly,” said Whisler. “In fact, we probably have a need for more space than this new expansion represents, already. So that’s really good news.”

Kyocera’s ceramics are used in high-performance, high-reliability applications, with roles in the semiconductor, aerospace, automotive, medical and renewable energy markets.

“The technology for ceramics and what they’re used for is in almost every industry… and the demand for it continues to grow,” Whisler explained. “Ceramic provides a material that isn’t affected by heat like metal is. It’s wear resistant and chemical resistant.”

As long as business conditions remain favorable, Whisler said, “this is just the beginning of further expansions.”

Kyocera companies have manufactured in Vancouver since 1986, with the current operations active since 1992.

Article & photo by Vancouver Business Journal

CREDC seeks Business Development Intern

POSITION DESCRIPTION

The position provides support for the CREDC’s policy, economic strategy, and business development activities. This is a part-time, non-exempt position without benefits.  The incumbent will typically work 10-12 hours per week for an anticipated 12-week period of time. A stipend may be offered depending on the final scope and requirements of the position.

The individual filling the position reports to the President and Directors.

KEY DELIVERABLES

1.     Business Activity:  Input recruitment and retention database notes, and review and recommend database adjustments to improve efficiency and alignment with Clark County’s Strategic Plan.
2.     Business Visits:  Support the Director of Business Development in business retention and expansion visits.
3.     Target Sector Analysis:  Collect industry specific data on Clark County’s strengths to inform marketing materials.
4.     Skills Gap Analysis:  Inventory WSUV, Clark College, and other Clark County certificate programs that align with target sectors.
5.     Policy Analysis:  Follow legislation related to the CREDC’s 2017 legislative agenda and report to the Policy Committee regularly on related bills and activity.

DESIRED QUALIFICATIONS

1.     Bachelor’s degree or near completion of a bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs; Economics; Business Administration; or equivalent
2.     Strong interpersonal skills, both written and verbal
3.     Demonstrated ability to work independently and exercise judgment as well as participate in a project team
4.     Some project management experience, including being detail-oriented with strong organizational skills and ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously
5.     Demonstrated experience and understanding of the Washington Legislature, bill movement and tracking.
6.     Demonstrated experience in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint

Interested applicants should send a cover letter and resume to bbagent@credc.org by April 28, 2017.

Silicon Valley tech company RealWear Opening Vancouver offices in renovated Artillery Barracks

RealWear, a rapidly growing Silicon Valley company, has signed a letter of intent with the Fort Vancouver National Trust to occupy 12,000 square feet in the newly renovated Artillery Barracks at the Fort Vancouver National Site. The announcement was made Thursday during Mayor Tim Leavitt's State of the City address, held in the space that RealWear will occupy. 

President and CEO of the Fort Vancouver Trust, Mike True said, "This is a very exciting partnership for the Trust, and a welcome addition to the Historic Site. The presence of RealWear in the West Barracks will create new vitality for downtown Vancouver. Bringing new technology-based business into a freshly renovated historic building is a perfect way to sustain and honor our community's history, while looking toward the future." 

RealWear is building the world's first voice-powered, hands-free and fully rugged head-mounted tablet solution for connected industrial workers, the HMT-1. The move is in response to early significant industry demand for the device. It is the company's first major North American expansion, and will serve key corporate functions in anticipation of the general availability launch of the HMT-1 in July 2017. 

"We selected Vancouver for its vibrant, growing business environment, talent pool, economic advantages, and quality of life offerings for our employees. The superb facilities at the Fort Vancouver National Site, and the enthusiasm and dedication of the people we met from the City of Vancouver, the Fort Vancouver National Trust, and the CREDC only made our decision easier," said Andy Lowery, CEO, RealWear. "We are thrilled to be in Vancouver and expect that our expansion will provide us the support and flexibility we need to grow our company rapidly and efficiently." 

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt said, "We are thrilled that RealWear has chosen Vancouver as its Pacific Northwest home, and look forward to the addition of this company to our burgeoning network of tech companies. This move shows once again that our city is a great place for companies to do business and I know they will enjoy the many amenities and high quality of life that Vancouver offers." 

RealWear's expansion comes as the company has built increasing momentum of its own in 2017. Awarded "Best Enterprise Solution" at Wearable Technology Show 2017 in London, England, the RealWear HMT-1 has received global acclaim for its innovation. More than 60 major industrial enterprises, channel partners, integrators and software solution partners including American Airlines, Boeing, Canon, and Hewlett Packard Enterprises have signed on as Pioneer Partners and are already using the HMT-1 in real-world scenarios. 

"We are excited to welcome RealWear to Clark County, where they will be a great addition to the IPZ community in Vancouver and Camas," said Mike Bomar, President of the CREDC. "The software as well as computer and electronics industries are growing clusters in the region and RealWear's decision to locate its first major expansion here will be a great boost to add to the momentum we've been building in these sectors." 

About the Trust
The Fort Vancouver National Trust holds the master lease for the West Barracks, which enables the Trust to manage property operations, renovations and development of the historic buildings owned by the City of Vancouver. The mission of the Trust is to inspire civic pride and economic vitality through education, preservation, and celebration of our community's history. For more information, visit www.fortvan.org or call 360-992-1800. 

About RealWear
RealWear is a Silicon Valley company building the world's first voice-powered, hands-free and fully rugged head-mounted tablet solution for connected industrial workers. Our team of seasoned executives and human factors experts hails from the ultra-rugged smartphone, smart glasses micro display and industrial augmented reality spaces. Together, we are engineering wearable hardware, software, cloud and AI solutions for enterprises in heavy industry. For more information, visit www.realwear.com.

Media: 
Press Release
RealWear Announces North American Expansion; Opens Vancouver, WA Office for Key Corporate Functions
Vancouver Business Journal
Silicon Valley wearable tech firm expanding to Vancouver
The Columbian
Leavitt touts city's achievements
High-tech tenant hopes to flourish at fort
Portland Business Journal
Industrial wearables startup lands in Vancouver, set to hire dozens
The Oregonian
RealWear, wearable tech company, will hire 20 for Vancouver outpost


About the Trust
The Fort Vancouver National Trust holds the master lease for the West Barracks, which enables the Trust to manage property operations, renovations and development of the historic buildings owned by the City of Vancouver. The mission of the Trust is to inspire civic pride and economic vitality through education, preservation, and celebration of our community's history. For more information, visit www.fortvan.org or call 360-992-1800. 

About RealWear
RealWear is a Silicon Valley company building the world's first voice-powered, hands-free and fully rugged head-mounted tablet solution for connected industrial workers. Our team of seasoned executives and human factors experts hails from the ultra-rugged smartphone, smart glasses micro display and industrial augmented reality spaces. Together, we are engineering wearable hardware, software, cloud and AI solutions for enterprises in heavy industry. For more information, visit www.realwear.com.

Higher Education

The headwinds against the emerging workforce are real and in many ways, unprecedented. Automation technology is entering the mainstream in many previously thought human-dependent sectors. Increased technical skills are required for most jobs and the skills that are necessary for today's job are likely to look very different only a few years from now. How are students expected to develop a game plan for a successful career strategy in this environment? Our local educational partners are working with the CREDC and its stakeholders to prepare students to be nimble, intelligent, and innovative in their approach to career preparation.

Today, a successful education system requires deep and meaningful connections to employers. Students, teachers, parents, and counselors alike must be aware of both the soft skills and unique technical requirements for local employers. Our local K12 and higher ed system has been working to this end for years. We have a strong, well-supported STEM network, working on scaling the impact of successful programs Countywide. The local players and the support are there, but more work can be done at the state-level to give us the tools we need to develop a truly integrated employer-education network. 

This week, we had the privilege of hearing from WSUV Chancellor, Mel Netzhammer, at the CREDC Spring Luncheon. Washington State University Vancouver is a strong example of how community-minded educational institutions can have a direct and dramatic impact on improving local economic outcomes. It is difficult to find an employer in Clark County that has not been positively impacted by the quality of WSUV graduates entering our workforce. Direct connections to employers with their Business department, Computer Sciences, CMDC, and many others have helped to build confidence in our areas ability to provide strong talent for our target cluster industries. But WSUV is not resting on past success.

Chancellor Mel Netzhammer at the CREDC Spring Luncheon 

Chancellor Mel Netzhammer at the CREDC Spring Luncheon 

Chancellor Netzhammer laid out a bold and thoughtful new strategic plan for WSUV that includes improving research, student numbers, community partnerships, as well as diversity/equity outcomes. New degree programs coming to WSUV are a result of a sophisticated analysis of employer demand, student interest, and institutional capacities. The addition of degrees in entrepreneurship  as well as several engineering offerings will have lasting impacts on economic outcomes for our community. The plans for a new iTech preparatory building on campus reflect a commitment to innovative and integrated educational approaches. A new Life Sciences Building will centralize existing successful programs as well as create opportunities to support a strong emerging cluster in Southwest Washington and in the region. Finally, an accelerated effort to offer student housing will support foreign students as well as many local students caught in the current housing affordability crisis. 

Business growth and attraction hinges largely on the ability to attract and retain talent. In Clark County, the connection between employers and WSUV, Clark College, Private Education Providers, apprenticeship partners, and our K12 system give us an advantage over many other areas. We must continue to cultivate these connections and commit to continuous improvement of our deliver methods if we are to stay competitive for the jobs of tomorrow. 

CREDC seeks request for proposal

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CONSULTANT

The Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) is seeking the assistance of a professional economic development consultant for the creation of an implementation plan to achieve strategic planning goals and objectives for Clark County, Washington. Electronic proposals for Consulting Services for the CREDC Strategic Economic Development Implementation Plan (Implementation Plan) will be accepted until April 14, 2017 at 5:00 PM PDT.

Should any questions arise concerning the proposal, please contact Brittany Bagent, Director of Research and Economic Strategy (bbagent@credc.org). 

The CREDC reserves the right to accept or reject, in whole or part, any and all proposals. 

View the RFP here

Governor Inslee visits Clark County

It was an exciting week in Clark County as we welcomed AbSci into their new lab and office space in the beautiful Hudson Building in downtown Vancouver, Washington. We had the pleasure of receiving a visit from Governor Inslee who was instrumental in the AbSci relocation to Clark County. The Governor commented that AbSci will be an anchored tenant of the economic and cultural transformation of Vancouver, and we could not agree more. 

Following AbSci's open house the Governor joined board members from Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Identity Clark County, and CREDC to discuss issues of concern to the Clark County business community. 

Thank you Governor for your support of economic development in Clark County. 

News coverage of the events: 
Inslee tours AbSci on Vancouver visit, The Columbian
Inslee talks biotech, I-5 Bridge replacement & energy terminal, Vancouver Business Journal

Press Release: 2017 Board, Staff Changes, & Ault recognized nationally

VANCOUVER, Wash. (January 31, 2017) -- At its annual meeting on January 24, 2017, the investors of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) elected their new members to serve on the 2017 Board of Directors. The new Board then elected the 2017 officers serving one-year terms and the private sector Executive Committee members at a special Board meeting immediately following.

"We are fortunate to have an incredible group of engaged and dedicated individuals lending their expertise to the organization," said Greg Seifert, President/CEO, Biggs Insurance Services and current CREDC Board Chair. "The organization is as strong as I've ever seen it and we're looking forward to a productive and active year."

Two individuals were elected to serve in one-year officer positions (other officer positions are serving two-year terms that began in 2016):
1. Treasurer: Lisa Dow, Senior Vice President, Credit Administration, Columbia Bank
2. Secretary: Lisa Lowe, Shareholder, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt

The following individuals were elected to three-year terms on the CREDC Board of Directors:
1. Lance Barrett, Managing Member, Barrett & Company (first term)
2. Vincent Bradley, President/Chief Executive Officer, Banfield Pet Hospital (first term)
3. Mei Wu, Managing Director, SmartRG (first term)
4. Craig Yabui, Vice President, JH Kelly (first term)
5. LeAnne Bremer, Partner, Miller Nash Graham & Dunn (second term)
6. Darrion Bowers, Vice President of Operations, Century Link (second term)
7. Brian Fleetwood, Vice President Commercial Loan Officer, Heritage Bank (second term)
8. Kim Leathley, Director, Strategy Planning and Business Development, PeaceHealth (second term)
9. Kevin Tapani, Vice President, Tapani Inc (second term)

Four Directors Emeritus were voted in for one-year terms:
1. Jeff Ahner, Technical Manager, Frito Lay, Inc.
2. Ben Bagherpour, Vice President of Operations, SEH America
3. Keith Forrester, Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Business Development, Kaiser Permanente
4. Eric Fuller, President, Eric Fuller & Associates

Seven private sector members were elected to serve on the Executive Committee:
1. Ben Bagherpour, Vice President of Operations, SEH America
2. Rick Campfield, Chief Executive Officer, SunModo
3. Helen Devery, Vice President, BergerABAM
4. Mark Mantei, Chief Executive Officer, The Vancouver Clinic
5. Frank Nichols, Chief Executive Officer/President, Silicon Forest Electronics
6. Kevin Tapani, Vice President, Tapani Inc
7. Tracy Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, DeWils Industries

"The quality of individuals on and joining the Board is a testament to the strength of the Economic Development community in Clark County," said Mike Bomar, President, CREDC. "We have big challenges ahead and the right staff and Board to move the needle on our key targets."

The full list of the 2017 CREDC Board of Directors can be found at www.credc.org/board-of-directors.

CREDC also announced two internal staff promotions, along with national recognition of one of its team members.

Samantha Codi Walker has been promoted to the position of Marketing and Events Manager. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing external marketing efforts including design and maintenance of the organization's website, social media accounts, and the creation of collateral, as well as coordinating logistics for CREDC events.

Max Ault has been promoted to the position of Vice President, Director of Business Development. His new role will include assisting the president in administrative and outreach functions in addition to his ongoing work serving as the primary point of contact for local businesses seeking assistance with startup, growth or retention issues.


Development Counsellors International (DCI), a New York-based firm that specializes in economic development marketing, has also selected Max as a winner in its 40 Under 40 awards, the only award of its kind recognizing young talent in the economic development profession. An independent six-member selection committee evaluated and chose the national winners based on their contributions to the economic development industry.

DCI officially announced the recipients last night at an awards ceremony during the International Economic Development Council Leadership Summit in Jacksonville and will feature an in-depth profile of each on its website during 2017. For more information on DCI's 40 Under 40 winners, visit www.aboutdci.com/40under40.

 

Looking ahead: The State of Clark County's Economy

It is a great privilege to serve as your President as we, the Columbia River Economic Development Council celebrate 35 amazing years as an organization. I want to take this opportunity to present you with some highlights of this past year and to give you a peek into what we expect for 2017. Before I dig into the details, however, I have to recognize the many individuals and organizations who work every day to make our economy strong and our community a better place to call home. 

First, I want to thank our officers for their constant dedication to advancing our economy. Our Chair - Greg Seifert, Vice Chair - Casey Wyckoff, Secretary - Lisa Lowe, Treasurer - Lance Barrett, and Immediate Past Chair - Tim Schauer. We are truly fortunate to have these sophisticated, high-integrity, committed leaders guiding our organization. In addition to our officers, our Executive Committee continues to work diligently to ensure that our activities our founded in good policy and our work is beneficial to all of Clark County. Our Board of Directors is a large and mighty group made up of our community's most impactful and resourceful leaders. I thank this group for their time and willingness to work together across sectors and with various charges to advance a unified plan

Much of our day to day work is supported by our amazing committee chairs and volunteers. The focus of these committees range from Business Recruitment and International Investment, to the critically important (and popular) Golf Committee. Each committee's work plan is designed to advance our economic strategy and  to ensure the health of our organization in achieving our goals.

We also rely heavily on our local public economic development teams and the elected officials who support their work with us. Our area has some of the best support for business from local governments out there.

There are also many local, regional, state, and federal partners who are critical to the work we do. I want to single out just a few. The Governor's Office, and the Washington State Department of Commerce, Greater Portland, Inc., the Economic Development Administration, the Association of Washington Business, our local Chambers of Commerce and Business Associations, Workforce SW Washington, Impact Washington, the STEM Network.  

As you can see, economic development is truly a team sport, and in Clark County, our people are truly our greatest asset.

Before I lay out what we expect to see in 2017, I would like to take just a moment to reflect on some of the successes from this past year. Here are a few highlights from each of our strategic goals.

Become a High-Tech Hub in the Region

The rise of the creative class is upon us. In the Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ) and throughout Clark County, software and web services companies have been growing at a significant rate over the past decade. In Vancouver, creative firms grew at a rate of 40% between 2005 and 2013, equating to about 6 new firms per year over that time. In 2016 alone, we worked with 21 IT/Software firms.

Our Hi-Tech Manufacturing Sector continues to be a critical Cluster for the region. In partnership with the Southwest Washington Hi-Tech Council and Clark PUD, the CREDC worked hard to defend and promote globally competitive power, in both price and reliability. Beyond power, we will continue to engage with this sector to learn how we can continue to provide the workforce and business climate this important cluster needs to grow here in Clark County.

Leverage Our Educational Partnerships

It is no coincidence that we decided on a "Bond" theme for this year's CREDC Annual Meeting. An educated and skilled workforce is the bedrock of a successful economy. Beyond the preparation of the jobs of tomorrow, our K-12 education system is an attractor for business leaders who want their own children to be set up for success in both work and life, whether they remain in our community or not.

Our community boasts 30 percent higher Associate degree attainment than the national average. For most jobs, a high school degree is simply not enough. We are fortunate to have institutions like Clark College and the International Air & Hospitality Academy who are national leaders in preparing students for the jobs of today. We enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate the opening of Clark College's STEM Building on their main campus and know that their foresight and investment will continue to pay dividends in the form of new and expanded companies in the region.

And then there's Washington State University Vancouver (GO COUGS!). One of the early priorities of the CREDC was the formation and growth of this campus. For decades, WSUV has been critical to increased opportunities for our citizens and a stronger pipeline for high-wage employers. This year, we were honored to participate in the formation of their new strategic vision which continues to enhance the role this institution and its broader system plays in our economic success. 

Attract Foreign Direct Investment

We have continued to work toward increased global connections to and foreign direct investment from key markets including Japan and Taiwan. Last year saw 12 FDI leads with 7 of those becoming active projects. Through the federal Select USA program, we marketed Clark County to both a broad range of global companies in Washington D.C. and then specifically to Taiwanese firms at the fall Select USA Road Show. 

Build the Business Growth Pipeline

From spurring innovation in individuals to finding the space for our largest employers to expand, the CREDC and its partners are focused on success along the entire business growth lifespan. 

For our startup businesses, our mantra is space, funding, and network. Last year, we saw new co-working spaces come on-line through the work of both local leaders and new investment into the community. We also saw increased early stage funding of companies like HUBB/Dynamic Events who won the OEN startup stage company award in 2016. Various forums such as Grow Clark County, the WSU MAP Program, the Vancouver Tech Project, and VanTalks have increased startup and early stage business connections between peers and mentors.

In many ways, 2016 was the year of the expansion. Last year, we visited 102 companies to assess, assist, and connect them with the great resource partners we have. We had 16 active expansion projects and 9 physical expansion wins, resulting in the addition of approximately 250 new jobs.

Ensure an Adequate Supply of Employment Lands

Our biggest initiative last year was the completion of a new and robust employment lands study. We identified and studied 56 large employment sites and did a deeper dive on 5 sites that had an important story to tell. This research and the ongoing work will allow us to better inform policymakers on the barriers and opportunities we have to site large projects in Clark County. Our Lands for Jobs Committee will continue to dig into the data to discover best practices in permitting, prioritization of areas, comprehensive planning, and environmental stewardship.

Our Ports continue to lead the way in both collaboration and by providing new development opportunities. In an increasingly competitive environment, our 3 Ports have developed a strong marketing and legislative alliance that will allow these distinct entities to maximize their exposure and impact.

The newly approved Foreign Trade Zone will give the Port of Vancouver and all of Clark County another great business attraction and expansion tool. More tools are needed, however, to foster the types of companies we want to keep and grow here. 

We must continue to strive for global best practices in our permitting processes and associated timelines. Projects carry enough inherent risk already. The more certainty we can provide up front, the better our reputation will be as a truly business-friendly community. 

Infrastructure

The completion of the Discover Clean Water Alliance Project was a huge success and a testament to the value of regional collaboration. Our hats go off to the many who worked for years to make that project a reality. We must continue to look for ways in which we can deliver key infrastructure, whether it's roads, pipes, or fiber to our employment sites more efficiently and in a way that saves taxpayers money. Either through reduced financing costs or outright funding efforts, we must support a system that can deliver when (and in many cases, just before) big opportunities arise. Across the country, communities are aggressively pursuing new business development and our ability to move a project forward in a timely manner will make or break our retention, expansion, and recruitment efforts. 

One of the key themes from our employer surveys was that increased transit and transportation investment is critical. We look forward to working with our great partners at C-Tran and the RTC to build on a strong vision for moving Clark County forward. 

2017

Economic Development Plan

One of the greatest strengths and at the same time challenges of our work is the diversity of Clark County's economy. From our Northern cities of Battle Ground, La Center, and Ridgefield, to Camas and Washougal in the East, to East, Central, Downtown Vancouver, and all the centers in between, each of our communities has their own distinct identities, opportunities, and challenges. In doing the critical work of developing a new comprehensive economic development plan, it is our commitment to present a vision that will leverage our unique strengths and speak to ways in which we can all grow in our own potential toward a common goal of economy prosperity. 

Last fall, with the help of our partners, we solicited feedback from employers as well as our public & education partners, to determine the key themes that will drive our vision and work for the next several years. Our next phase will be to analyze the key sectors and markets that we will pursue using best practices in economic development. 

The final stage of our work set for mid-year will be the implementation plan. A plan on a shelf is of no use. We will provide accountability and timelines to our goals and improve the way we share in their progress. We look forward to continuing to work with you in developing a plan that will establish a clear vision and challenge us to accelerate our drive toward economic prosperity for all in Clark County. 

In the spirit of our theme for our Annual Meeting, here are some key James Bond takeaways:

While this past year was great, we know that Tomorrow Never Dies. You have given us a License to Kill (at growing and attracting businesses). We will continue to keep a GoldenEye out for any Spectre of threats to our businesses. In the Casino Royale that is business attraction, You Only Live Twice. 

For the CREDC and its partners, The World Is Not Enough. Growth for Clark County may eventually Skyfall, but we offer a Quantum of Solace that we are all resolved to Die Another Day.

We at CREDC wish all of Clark County, a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2017.

-Mike Bomar, President

A Bridge to Somewhere

Next year, the northbound span of the I-5 Columbia River bridge will celebrate its 100th anniversary. I has now been over three years since the Columbia River Crossing project was shut down. A variety of factors led to the project's demise, including partisan politics, project shortcomings, and economic timing. Many community leaders, some no longer with us, spent endless hours debating and discussing the project to come up with a locally preferred alternative and a final EIS that attempted to reflect the technical needs and community desires for a new bridge. What they left with was nearly $200 million spent, a great deal of political capital expended, and many broken relationships. Whether you liked the project or not, it was one of the greatest public process tragedies of our time. 

So much has been written and said about this project that it is hard to say anything without inadvertently plagiarizing someone. But after all the second guessing and blame placing, one thing still remains: the problem. Our organization focuses on growing and attracting traded sector industries as a way to maximize economic output and to create the highest possible standard of living for our community. We spend a great deal of time meeting with these companies to learn about both the challenges and opportunities facing their organizations. Consistently, we hear that regional mobility for freight, commerce, and people is a significant limiting factor to expansion or relocation to Clark County. Within that, the congestion and unpredictable nature of I-5 traffic is noted as the biggest issue by far. 

For Clark County economic development, the issue is not how to get more skilled workers living here an easier commute to Oregon. In fact, we prefer to keep as many as we can living AND working in Clark County. For us, this project is about improving essential freight and commerce for SW Washington companies, freeing up access to key business centers located in Clark County, and expanding the area from which our businesses can attract talent. 

From an economic output perspective, it is foolish to intentionally inhibit the movement of all traffic to attempt to incentivize working closer to home.  When we limit our regional mobility as a result of politics, we restrain the output and efficiency of the entire region. Moving goods, services, and people becomes more expensive, if not outright impossible, leading to higher prices or businesses being forced to leave the region altogether. We essentially make our "economic pie" smaller than it should be. While we may continue to differ on transportation and transit policies across the river, we must recognize that strong regional mobility is a paramount necessity of a healthy economy. Competition for business is fierce and we cannot afford to operate in silos when it comes to region-wide issues. 

A new formal process must begin this year and must be structured in a way that represents the diverse array of communities and perspectives with a stake in the outcome. It must begin with a shared agreement of the problem, and a commitment to fix it, even if that means the final product is not exactly perfect by all standards. In 2019, critical maintenance work will clearly highlight the economic impact of our interstate bridges. If we wait until then, or if something worse happens that triggers the discussion, we will have done our community a great disservice. It is likely that many of us will not be here to fully see or benefit from the final product of this effort, but we must move forward and establish a clear vision that will carry forward to future generations and elected bodies. The future business is risky, ugly, and underappreciated, but it is our business and the time is now. 

-Mike Bomar, President

The Power of a Unified Plan

This fall, the Columbia River Economic Development Council, along with more than 140 private and public partners, will embark on creating a unified economic development plan for Clark County. The front end of this project will involve both formal data collection about our area's economic conditions, interviews of key stakeholders, and a robust review of existing partner plans. The effort will tell us both what we can do, as well as what we want to do. Our ambitious goal is to bring forward a plan that provides clear and committed guidelines to direct how we invest our limited time and resources over the next few years.

A good plan will also push us in areas that are critical to our future success, but where it may not be easy to find consensus. Most economic development plans track areas where there is already organization and momentum toward a particular goal. A great plan will do this, and also make the case for new, necessary, and bold initiatives that will put the community on a better path than it would otherwise realize. That's where the hard work comes in. Over the past five years, strong relationships have been built that should help us get through the tough parts. Our community is fortunate to have quality leaders that can build their organizations while keeping the bigger picture in mind. 

In terms of economic development, this is truly a historic time to be living and working in Clark County. Multiple significant projects that were originally invested in more than ten years ago are now starting to break ground. The area has received a lot of attention as a great place for businesses to plant roots and grow, as well as being a great place to just hang out and have a beer. We also have significant challenges around aging infrastructure, affordable housing, and funding needs for public services that correspond with this respective growth.  We will need to have difficult conversations about how we will remain globally competitive (if that's what we want), while investing in the services and infrastructure that will lead to continued growth and community development.

The new plan needs to speak as much to La Center as it does to Vancouver. It needs to reflect the value and potential of each of our many great cities and ports. It needs to recognize the role that education and infrastructure play in building the foundation for a successful future. It needs to appropriately assess and leverage our role in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro Metropolitan Statistical Area. It should realize the best of what we as a community are and foster the type of economic growth that embodies the true values of our area. I look forward to working with you on building a very important playbook for moving us all in the right direction. 

-Mike Bomar, President

Select USA!

The CREDC joined the Washington State Department of Commerce and our economic development partners around the state at SelectUSA to promote Clark County to foreign companies looking to invest or expand in the United States. The summit included more than 2,500 participants from around the world. Several companies we met with had real projects and were actively seeking West Coast partners or sites. 

In addition to the direct business connections, SelectUSA was a great reminder of the great blessing it is to do business in the United States. At the top of the list for any company looking to invest or expand is consistency (the ability to accurately assess risk) and having the ability to innovate new products and services. Despite all our challenges, the freedom and stability of the US market is a huge competitive advantage and continues to drive both domestic and foreign investment. During his keynote at the event, President Obama stated “No country has done more to build a culture of making and tinkering, and entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and of innovation and invention.” It is this spirit of innovation that will lead to the US playing a major role in solving global crises in Healthcare, Water, and Energy

The other side of the coin is predictability and stability. We perhaps take for granted the guarantees provided by the US judicial system with regard to honoring contracts and ensuring a fair business environment. While it may not seem like we enjoy political stability and a consistent regulatory environment, the range of options that determine risk to a business are far more limited than in many developing and some developed markets. Our continued success will rely on current and future generations holding dear these principles of freedom, democracy, and innovation. 

As we enter the Independence Day holiday weekend, I encourage you to take 15 minutes and listen to the comments by the President about why right now and right here is the best place in history to do business. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

-Mike Bomar, President

Obama speaks at SelectUSA

President Obama addressing the crowd at SelectUSA 2016. 

President Obama addressing the crowd at SelectUSA 2016. 

The Business Case for Equity and Diversity

To be honest, when the Greater Portland 2020 plan began to focus on improving diversity and equity in our region, I had serious concerns.  Not because diversity and equity are not laudable goals, but for an economic developer, these things are often seen as added bonuses that fall more appropriately into the arena of social services.  In an increasingly competitive global market, what could be the business case for diversity and equity?

I've now spent over a decade representing the business (and now the broader economic development) community.  Most, if not all, of the business leaders I work with are dedicated to their community and genuinely care about making our region an even more amazing place to live, work, and play.  That said, they are also constantly responding to crisis, balancing risk, and fighting against internal and external threats to the vitality of their livelihood and that of their employees.  Many community efforts centered around business participation fail because they approach companies with the public good, rather than the business case for their cause. As much as businesses would like to help, there is simply not the space for this approach.  That doesn't mean that a public good can't be dramatically enhanced by business participation. 

The first business case potential I saw for diversity was in the realm of international trade and foreign direct investment.  A community with diverse leadership, in theory, may appear more welcoming to business leaders and have a better cultural awareness that would ultimately lead to more investment and community participation by foreign firms.  Seems to make sense, right?  There are two problems with this approach.  

First, businesses that are targeting trade partners can generally solve this issue by hiring native sales people from their target countries or hire consultants in those countries to bridge the gap.  Second, there is also a potential issue with alignment.  A community's underrepresented communities don't necessarily reflect its greatest potential trade partners.  There are an estimated 30,000 residents of Slavic descent in Clark County, for example, but that doesn't necessarily translate to Ukraine being our best trade ally.  A more global outward face for a community, by itself, doesn't justify the time and effort needed to become a more diverse and equitable economy. 

A capable workforce is the number one issue facing our businesses today and moving forward.  The demand for 21st century skills is intense and increasing.  By 2017, an estimated 45,000 STEM jobs will go unfilled in Washington State.  While our area continues to be a top location for talent attraction, we simply will not be able to import our way out of this problem in the long run.  Responsible leaders must focus on up-skilling our existing population to meet this demand.  To close the skills gap, it will take ALL of our communities working together to train and up-skill our incoming and existing workforce.  This is where the business case for equity and diversity comes in. 

Between 1990 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew from 3 to 10 percent in the Portland region.  Median Household Income for this population is significantly less than White and Asian groups.  If this trend continues, the region risks having greater numbers of people with lower paying skill sets competing for increasingly technical jobs.  It is therefore in every local employer's interest to support the training and education of traditionally underrepresented communities in our region.  This will not happen overnight and we certainly can't expect employers to achieve this goal on their own.  

The key will be to constantly put focus and effort into breaking down silos between employers and underrepresented communities to ensure that these individuals have the access needed to understand the pathways and resources available to attain competitive skills that have historically been out of reach.  The Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce provides excellent resources for small businesses and individuals looking to improve their training and education.  Many other groups are making a similar impact.  The key to our region's business competitiveness will depend on these groups working together to bring the effort to scale.

The result of an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse workforce (from the top down) will be a steady supply of quality resumes for our employers and a better place for businesses to stay and thrive in the long run.  I look forward to working with you on getting us there!

-Mike Bomar, President

Local or Global? That is the question. And the answer

There are two simple but important things every member of our community can (and I dare say should) do to maximize our economic vitality. The first is to support jobs and companies that sell goods and services outside the region. The second is to support local sector companies that maximize the amount of local products, employees, and vendors they use in their products or services. The former brings new dollars into our economy while the latter keeps those dollars here.

The Columbia River Economic Development Council generally focuses on traded sector companies as a strategy for providing the maximum amount of economic value for the work we do. A recent study from ECONorthwest further quantifies the value of the traded sector in our region, noting that these jobs, on average, pay higher wages, employ more full-time workers, and include more college graduates.  For every traded sector job, 1.6 local jobs are created in the local sector. While trends for regional traded sector jobs have been shifting from goods to services, both are critical in maintaining a solid foundation for continued economic growth. But the story doesn't end there.

If you think about the Clark County economy as one of those spinning wishing well coin collectors (see the title picture), traded sector jobs are the new coins added to device. The total number of coins spinning at any moment is our economic vitality. Coins that come in and slide right down the hole don't do us much good (and aren't very entertaining). Those that spin around many times (local sector) as others are added (trade & tourism) add to a vibrant and growing economy. The more dollars we can bring in and the longer we can keep them circulating throughout local businesses, the better of we will be on a variety of economic health metrics. So whether you're an elected official, business leader, or coffee drinker, you have an important role to play in economic development. 

Things you can do:

My intent is not to say that imports or non-local businesses are bad. They provide many of the conveniences and amenities that enhance our quality of life. However, by focusing our strategy and limited resources on buying local and improving traded sector activity, we are maximizing the individual and collective impact we can have. A strong economy is one in which each community member is mindful of the value of investing both globally and locally. 

-Mike Bomar, President

CREDC Investor Profile: Ralph Parker, UL

Congratulations to Ralph Parker on his retirement!  From everyone at CREDC, thank you for your dedicated service to our community. 

Energy-efficient projects are just one of the ways UL is fulfilling their safety mission here at their Camas, WA location, which opened its doors in 1994.  Currently, their energy-efficient projects include replacing all exterior campus lighting with LED fixtures, implementing electric car charging stations, and installing insulation of building automation by controlling heating and cooling throughout the facility based upon the outside air temperature and building occupancy.

Celebrating Economic Development Week: Economic Growth vs Economic Development

By CREDC President, Mike Bomar

As we wrap up the first annual IEDC Economic Development week, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on my thoughts around the CREDC's purpose. Specifically, what it is that we do in this community to add value. I believe it's critical, no matter what type of organization you belong to, to ask yourself, at least once a year, why do we exist? If you don't have a good, genuine answer to that question, it might be time to reevaluate your mission or shut the whole thing down.

All living things experience growth and decline. For certain entities, this happens in a wave formula in which growth and decline happen repeatedly in various amplitudes over long periods of time. Others experience a bell-shaped curve of growth and decline until they reach a period of death or obsolescence. The factors that lead to both growth and decline are often numerous, if not infinite. It is difficult, if not impossible, to fully account for (much less predict) all of the drivers at any given time. Economic growth and decline can be understood in this way. If economic growth (even in highly controlled economies) have a life of their own, so to speak, what this is the value of economic development agencies?

In most of my interactions with community members over the past two years, I have been praised either individually or as an organization for all of the economic gains Clark County has experienced. While I very much appreciate the sentiment, I strongly believe the praise to be slightly misdirected. Experienced economic developers know this well, and yet there is still a constant pressure for EcDevr's to view and justify their existence (and their budgets) in terms of current economic growth. There are indeed projects in most areas that have resulted in new jobs, capital investment and tax revenue that would not have otherwise occurred if not for the work of the local economic development team (past and present). The impact of these projects are often many millions of dollars that can justify an organization's budget for many years over. That said, if the effectiveness of economic development agencies is judged by these projects alone, we are missing the point of the exercise.

To view economic development vs. economic growth, let's consider a gardening analogy. Having spent many hours this summer pulling weeds, I can speak with authority that growth happens whether you want it to or not, and often in places you don't want it to. Unfettered growth also creates some amazingly beautiful natural scenes along with some amazingly unpleasant smells. Through gardening, one seeks to maximize the beauty, foster the kind of growth that is desired, and rid the environment of unwanted growth. Too much gardening carries its own risk (see the Gardens of Versailles). Attempts to too tightly control growth result in massive amounts of energy and resources used to achieve results that are less impressive than what nature (or the market) would otherwise provide, leaving those involved feeling exhausted and out of place. Conversely, not enough gardening leads to dead plants and smelly, aggressive weeds that make the space unattractive and useless. 

The appropriate role of economic developers is to ensure the right kind of environment where growth can happen in a way that adds value to a community and reflects or enhances the character of a place. This involves bringing together a broad range of players to help determine what type of place we want to live in. In Clark County, we do this through the Comprehensive Economic Development Plan and through the regular interaction between public & private sector partners. It also includes, making sure we have the right kind of business climate (soil) where we can encourage innovation and entrepreneurial-ism (plant seeds that will grow) and give our existing companies the nutrients they need (workforce development, tax structure, infrastructure investments, lands for jobs) to stay and grow here. Finally, it does include seeking out new companies (transplants) that will enhance the character of our community. 

As tempting as it is to say that we create jobs or investment, the truth is we are better understood as servants in a community garden. The more involved and connected we are in conversations about our future, the more likely it will be that we will see growth that we can be proud of and companies that reflect our values.

For any economic developers reading this, I understand that I am adding nothing new to the conversation. Perhaps I just realized that it was my time to contribute a verse. 

Special thanks to Scott Bailey and the Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Conference for partnering with us this week to celebrate the role economists and economic developers play in making our world a better place. 

Think Big in Small Animal Health

By CREDC President, Mike Bomar

I recently read a book called Town, Inc. (thank you Betsy Henning) that explored the value of focusing in on being great at one thing in a community.  In essence, the recommendation is to become the "worldwide capital of x."  Afterwards, I thought a lot about what makes up our community: the history, culture, key events, people, and place.  While I think being a diverse economy with a wide range of key industries has certainly provided us resiliency and depth, I do think it's worth considering where we might be able to stand out and further define who we are on a global scale.  It also may be one of the places where local economic development professionals can have the most direct impact on economic outcomes.

One error that can be made by EcDev professionals is to look at a significant investment (new company or capital improvement) and respond as if it represents a much broader opportunity than it truly does in that moment in time.  To avoid this mistake, it's important to look at the fundamentals of what makes a strong economy and to take a realistic look at what strengths (and shortcomings) a community has.  While strategies have changed recently, I believe these fundamentals have remained relatively static for some time. 

Place

While often taken for granted, geographic location is often the largest determinant of what an economy looks like in a given area.  This can be defined both in broader geographic terms (ie: gateway to the Pacific, United States, Pacific Northwest), and by a community's proximity to other metro areas (urban, suburban, rural).  Our community is set up well for global trade and regional distribution.  The nature of our place has led to many investments in rail, road, river & runway to move products and people to and through the region.  

The natural and urban amenities of the area also play a key role.  The Vancouver-Portland Metro area is a very attractive place for active people as well as nature lovers with close proximity to an ocean, mountains, lakes and rivers. Our temperate climate also helps define what we do here and who is attracted to the area.  Place alone, however, cannot sustain a thriving economy.

People

While most communities claim to have "good people," what this really means in economic development is the right type of skill sets and general understanding of an industry throughout the population.  Scaling up a workforce from scratch is a very difficult thing to do, even with increased mobility of employees over time.  

World War II and the Kaiser Shipyards brought a massive influx of steel workers, electricians, and other professionals, many from families that remain in the community.  Since then, the manufacturing sector has benefited from the people who know how to build world-class products.  Again, up to the 80's and early 90's, the region saw growth related to the Silicon Forest investments in the region.  We currently enjoy a strong presence of high-tech skilled workers that is appealing to additional tech investment.  

There are many other stories that have helped define the workforce we enjoy today in Clark County.  Talent attraction is important, but employers need to see an existing workforce that will help them be successful.

Education

Education is the very foundation of economic development.  Clark County has the benefit of a Tier 1 research institution in WSU Vancouver and a nationally recognized community college.  In our community, however, a commitment to education goes beyond these great institutions and is felt throughout the K-12 system and other non-traditional education providers.  The interweaving of our local economy and the education system, while there is more work to be done, is an attractive atmosphere for employers looking to invest in a long-term location.  Success with education is about connections and cultures as much as it about the specific degrees and programs we offer.

Tax and Regulatory Environment

Washington state is not known as an incentive-driven state, and I'm more than okay with that.  What we do have is a favorable tax structure and in Clark County, business-friendly local governments that understand the important role job creation plays in the overall quality of life we enjoy.  Historical advantages such as low-cost, reliable energy will continue to play an important role in business attraction and retention.  Data infrastructure and pricing will play an increasingly important role for business. 

Vision and Team

It's not enough to have the ingredients for success.  Becoming known as a worldwide leader takes a group of committed and thoughtful people willing to put in the time and resources to make it happen.  We have a committed and involved group of leaders that provide us with the opportunity to make meaningful progress toward being a globally known community. 

The Small Animal Health Capital of the World?

Recently, new investments and projects in our community have led us to wonder about Clark County's potential to be the "Small Animal Health Capital of the World."  While there's a lot of exploration left to do before we direct resources down that path, there are some interesting linkages across the fundamentals that could bode well for our area's place in that industry (and my dog's well-being). 

Southwest Washington is already known as a pet-loving community.  The growing abundance of dog parks and the strong support for the Humane Society point to a community that cares about its pets.  There is also a strong presence of health care professionals and experts in the region, as well as companies that focus on health care products and services.  The opening of Banfield Pet Hospital's headquarters in East Vancouver will likely have the largest immediate impact on our area's reputation as a pet-lover's paradise.  Beyond the obvious corporate presence and community affinity for furry little friends, we have more to offer to the future of animal health. 

In education, we have connections to the life sciences from K-12 through higher ed.  While most of the focus is currently on human health, many of the applications could also be tailored toward animal health.  Companies in life sciences also work across both fields.  WSU has a world-class vet med program in Pullman.  It's likely that the expertise and resources of the broader system will be able to support a stronger presence of animal health research and education here in Vancouver.  As research & development is critical to this industry, support from state and local governments will be necessary for both educational institutions and industry partners. 

Partners with a strong vision for life sciences and health are also present.  The Port of Vancouver's Columbia River Life Sciences Park will provide initial space and an ongoing presence of life sciences firms at the new waterfront.  There have also been key investments in data infrastructure that is becoming increasingly important in the life sciences sector (think genomics). 

While we are a ways out from making the claim that we are the "Small Animal Health Capital of the World," enough ingredients are there to justify taking a hard look at how Clark County could soon be synonymous with pet care.  Stay tuned!
 

Building a 21st Century Makers Economy

By CREDC President, Mike Bomar

Clark County's strong past can help propel us into a healthy economic future; but not without our key initiatives in place

Healthcare is to the 21st Century as the automobile was to the last one. Advancements in medical devices and pharmaceuticals, combined with our increased computational capacity, have launched an era of tremendous opportunity for improved health outcomes. The concepts of both individualized and customized treatment, along with new technologies to reduce aging and cure diseases, are quickly becoming a reality. What does this mean for Clark County?

A blog from The Economist made the case, “Why nurses are the new auto workers." While I believe that nurses will continue to be a key part of healthcare delivery, the movement of care from mainly hospitals and clinics to more care at home, combined with cost-cutting and wage pressures in the health system, will mean demand for new skill sets. As healthcare is a significant and critical piece of our local economy, it is essential that we understand the changing environment and position our healthcare professionals, and our economy as a whole, to be successful moving forward. We can also play an important role in making the devices that transform the way we experience care.

Clark County has a long and strong history of healthcare, manufacturing and trade. From the Hudson’s Bay Company and Mother Joseph to the Kaiser Shipyards, our legacy industries have molded us into a caring and globally-connected community that knows how to build things. Generations of framers, welders, electricians and machinists, combined with our strength in the healthcare and high tech sectors, allow us to showcase a robust workforce that can adapt as manufacturing changes in the diverse economy we enjoy today. We will continue to build great big things as we have for more than a century, but we also have an opportunity to thrive in the manufacture of increasingly smaller and more complex products. The key to our success will be playing off our historical strengths, connecting our education system (K-20) to the manufacturing industry in a way that shows promising pathways for our youth, and building the necessary infrastructure to meet the needs of today’s employers.

The diverse worlds of healthcare, manufacturing and high tech are increasingly demanding a common set of essential skills. Those seeking the careers of tomorrow will need to be personable and professional, but also creative and technically proficient. To be successful, we must meet the systemic needs of our employers. At a recent life sciences startup symposium at OHSU, an audience member asked me a great question: “Where do we go when we need more than just PhDs?” If we truly want to grow and retain our local companies and talent, we need to train an army of researchers, entrepreneurs, managers and makers to meet the needs of each stage of business growth.

Partners like WSU Vancouver and Clark College have done great work in both meeting student demand and also offering the degree programs most needed by our employers. We also have an amazing K-12 system with strong community support that is increasingly connected to employers. This allows our children to learn about the career opportunities close to home, while obtaining the education and skills needed to thrive where they have their roots. While more work is needed, silos are beginning to break down between public, private, education and nonprofit institutions in a way that will be attractive to both new employers and existing companies seeking growth.

The CREDC has successfully assisted three manufacturing companies in relocating to Clark County so far this year and is currently working with 10 more considering relocation to the area. If we preserve (or enhance) our global competitiveness on energy rates and reliability and we combine that with a skilled and adaptive workforce, we will be able to meet the needs of not only these companies, but many more to come.