CREDC Announces 2018 Officers and New Board Members

At its annual meeting on January 24, 2018, the investors of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) elected their new members to serve on the 2018 Board of Directors. The new Board then elected the 2018 officers and private sector Executive Committee members at a special Board meeting immediately following.     

“This CREDC Board is truly an amazing group of leaders that are dedicated and driven to see continued positive impact in our communities,” said Casey Wyckoff, President/Principal, LSW Architects and current CREDC Board Chair. “The organization is eager to pursue continued growth and success in 2018.”

CREDC’s 2018 officers leading the Board of Directors are:

  1. Chair (2018-2019): Casey Wyckoff, LSW Architects 
  2. Vice Chair (2018-2019): Lisa Lowe, Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt
  3. Immediate Past Chair (2018-2019): Greg Seifert, Biggs Insurance Services
  4. Treasurer (2018): Lisa Dow, Columbia Bank  
  5. Secretary (2018): Helen Devery, BergerABAM

The following individuals were elected to a three-year term on the CREDC Board of Directors:

1. Mike Bach, Frito-Lay
2. Gena Bailey, Kaiser Permanente
3. Ben Bagherpour, SEH America
4. Augusto Bassanini, United Grain Corp
5. Alan Garcia, NW Natural
6. Brian Knight, WRK Engineers
7. Mark Mantei, The Vancouver Clinic
8. Tracy Wilson, DeWils Industries

Four Directors Emeritus were voted in for a one-year term:

  1. Bryce Helgerson, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center
  2. Steve Horenstein, Horenstein Law Group
  3. Matt Krueger, PacTrust
  4. Brian Wolfe, Brian H. Wolfe, P.C. 


Seven private sector members were elected to serve on the 2018 Executive Committee:

  1. Ben Bagherpour, SEH America
  2. Bill Dudley, Landerholm, P.S.
  3. Michelle Erickson, Umpqua Bank
  4. Matt Krueger, PacTrust
  5. Kevin Tapani, Tapani Inc
  6. Tracy Wilson, DeWils Industries
  7. Mei Wu, SmartRG

“We are truly excited about the caliber of our new and existing board members,” said Mike Bomar, President, CREDC. “As we take on an ambitious strategic plan, we appreciate our top business and community leaders really stepping up to help us achieve some lofty goals this year and beyond.”

The full list of the 2018 CREDC Board of Directors can be found HERE.


Clark County looks ahead

By nearly all measures, Clark County has enjoyed back-to-back years of strong economic growth. The outlook is for more of the same in 2018.

“Even with expected increases in (commercial) loan interest rates, we see more growth ahead,” said Greg Seifert, board chair of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC).

The CREDC is the county’s go-to organization for job retention and new job recruitment. This year, four new employers set up shop in the county with the help of development council staff. In addition, 15 existing employers launched successful expansion projects with CREDC assistance.

“These projects represent 500 new jobs and about $400 million in capital investment,” Seifert said. “The numbers from 2016 were much the same.”

Coming in 2018, Seifert said, is the new Home Depot QuoteCenter, which will occupy 45,000 square feet and employ 200 people inside Quad Industrial Park. QuoteCenter software (developed in Vancouver) is already being used by professional contractors placing large Home Depot orders. The expanded operation will serve customers throughout the U.S.

Eventually, the 22-acre Quad Industrial Park, just east of Grand Central on state Highway 14, is expected to include as much as 400,000 square feet of commercial and retail construction. Owner/developer is Vancouver-based Killian Pacific.

Measuring the economy

Business development activity, however, is one way to look at the local economy. Total job growth is another. Through October, county-based employers had added a total of 7,300 new jobs for a strong annual growth rate of 4.7 percent. That’s far better the statewide average of 2.3 percent or the U.S. annual job creation rate of just 0.6 percent.

The Washington Department of Revenue reported that total taxable retail sales in the county were up 10 percent in the second quarter over the same three months in 2016. Homebuilding, both single-family and multifamily, continued strong.

In his latest report, state labor analyst Scott Bailey said Clark County’s most recent unemployment rate of 4.4 percent was the lowest jobless rate since 1999.

He said the county is enjoying “rapid, diversified employment growth.”

Economic challenges

But while indicators are positive, the county faces some economic challenges, Seifert said.

“We have great assets in Clark College and Washington State University Vancouver and in our K-12 school districts, but we now are making a big push to look at (training) tracks other than just precollege,” he said.

This is in response to local employers who say they can not find enough qualified new employees in sectors such as manufacturing, construction and health care. Many of these jobs do not require a college degree.

“We are digging deeper into school districts for how we can address this issue,” Seifert said.

Also, lack of affordable housing continues to be a problem for the county and for the Portland-Vancouver Metro area. According to government reports, the rate of homelessness in the metro area has jumped 10 percent in the past two years with the housing crisis forcing low-income or unemployed people onto the streets.

Homebuilders are trying to catch up to the situation. Year-to-date through November, 1,581 permits have been issued for single-family home construction in Clark County. That is 136 more permits than issued in the same time frame in 2016. Another 389 permits have been issued for commercial project construction, also up from last year.

Aaron Helmes, a board member of the Building Industry Association (BIA) of Clark County, recently described 2017, as “another solid year” for the homebuilding industry. But land availability and a shortage of skilled laborers are challenges, he said. He expects another solid year in 2018 despite rising mortgage interest rates.

Mike Bomar, CREDC president and CEO, also sees another year of strong economic growth in Clark County.

“We are working to problem-solve with smaller- to medium-sized businesses that want to expand,” Bomar said.

Among those businesses are those combining construction planning and management with new efficient technologies. Bomar sees this as an emerging employment node for the region.

In the coming year, the CREDC, he said, will focus on the strategic areas of software, computers and electronics, metals and machinery, life sciences and clean tech. The council is also working to support expansion of professional services businesses, logistics and distribution, construction and healthcare.

National comparisons

New York-based financial technology company, SmartAsset, said Clark County – with a population of 450,000 – ranked No. 5 among all counties in Washington state for the most overall economic growth during the past four years. According to the research, the county saw business growth of 7.1 percent and new single-family home construction (as measured by new permits per 1,000 of existing homes) as second only to King County.

The Vancouver Waterfront Development is just one of numerous development projects currently going on in the Clark County area.
Courtesy of CREDC

2017 Clark County Economy at a Glance

New jobs: 7,300, up 4.7 percent
Taxable retail sales: Up 10 percent over 2016
Single-family home building permits: 1,581, up 9.4 percent
Home sales: 8,091, unchanged from 2016
Home median sale price: $325,000, up 12 percent

Astronaut stresses importance of life sciences in workforce

Astronaut Michael Barratt has some advice for students wondering if those math, science and English classes are really worth it: You never know what you’re going to need.

Barratt, who has five kids and grew up in Clark County, said he’s heard the oft-repeated school kid complaint “I’m never going to use this” about un-liked subject matter more times than he’d care to count. But as a medical doctor who had to learn the technical skills required to work at NASA, he said he’s been constantly surprised by how often those once-unloved skills come in handy.

“I’m a life sciences dweeb, but I use math all the time,” Barratt said. “I write all the time, too. If you can’t write and communicate, they won’t glom onto your ideas. We need all those skill sets.”

Barratt spoke last week at the Pearson Air Museum Historic Hanger as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week in Vancouver. The event, part of the GROW Clark County series, was sponsored by Washington State University Vancouver’s Business Growth Mentor and Analysis Program and the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC).

“Life sciences (Barratt’s area of expertise) is one of our target sectors for economic growth,” said Mike Bomar, president of CREDC. “Part of that is we want to make sure kids growing up in the system here can see successful industry professionals. I think the idea of a NASA astronaut as the ultimate career shows it can be done here, and that our students should follow their dreams.”

Barratt graduated from Camas High School in 1977, and his parents still live in the city. He got his zoology degree from the University of Washington in 1981 and his M.D. from Northwestern in 1985.

“My big thing is human life science,” Barratt said. “Humans in space, adaptation, counter adaptation. It’s a whole new discipline of physiology.”

The human body can do things weightless that it can’t do on the ground, which is something Barratt has spent a considerable amount of time studying over his career. Diseases also behave differently in space, as does the human central nervous system. And it’s also a great environment to study osteoporosis, which is amplified in zero gravity.

“(Going into space is) like switching osteoporosis on and off,” Barratt said. “You can test drugs and get results fast because of that.”

In his career, Barratt helped develop NASA’s space medicine program and was medical operations lead for the International Space Station. He’s completed two space flights and also co-edited the book “Principles of Clinical Medicine for Space Flight” in 2008.

Going into NASA Barratt had a strong background in biology and he also knew how to speak Russian. But he found he had a lot more learning to do once he joined the agency.

“When you first show up for work as an astronaut, they say ‘we’re very appreciative of your skills, now you’re going to school again,’” Barratt said. “I had a lot of engineering to learn during basic astronaut training, but I had my own advantages. I knew Russian and zoology. So, after my fellow astronauts got to watch me struggle with engineering, I got to watch them struggle learning Russian.”

Having scientists and astronauts learn each others’ skills is actually a huge benefit – it helps foster new ideas and crossover technologies, along with being absolutely necessary in conditions where overlapping skill sets could save your life, he said.

“We all had our areas of discomfort as we had to learn each other’s worlds,” Barratt said. “But I think that’s a good thing. One thing that’s common in the space world is diversity of interest. It puts together everything I love.”

There’s also a lot of scientific research that can only happen in zero gravity, he said.

For instance, pharmaceutical companies can help fast-track medications by using the environment to grow larger, more perfect protein crystals than can be grown on Earth. The companies analyze the crystal growth and use the data to help them create better computer models of how carbohydrates, nucleic acids and proteins work.

“You can grow really big ones that make them really easy to analyze,” Barratt said.

Cell cultures also work better in space. On earth, you can only grow cell cultures a few cells deep, but if you take away gravity, you can grow cell cultures that are far deeper and grow more quickly.

“We’ve accelerated vaccines for typhus for instance (using cell cultures in space),” he said.

Disease outbreaks in space are also a concern. NASA quarantines astronauts for about two weeks before they fly.

“I was up there once when (the quarantine) didn’t work, and we had a cold spread,” Barratt said. “In zero G there’s no place to drain your sinuses, so your head feels like it’s going to explode.”

Space environments turn into their own small ecosystems, with whatever lives in the air, water, and on or in the crew becomes its own microbiome. That’s something Barratt also wants to study more, because it will impact future space exploration and outposts.

“It’s something we just started to study,” Barratt said. “We’re also starting to adopt genetic techniques, proteomics, all the -omics sciences in looking at that.”

Barratt gets back to Camas a few times a year to visit his parents, he said. He was unfamiliar with Vancouver’s $1.5 billion Waterfront Development Project when he arrived, but said he’s excited to see it come together.

“It sounds awesome to me because I grew up there,” Barratt said. “I’m an entrepreneur, and I like things like that.”

He said Washington’s quality of life and its plethora of high tech companies bodes well for the state and for Clark County to grow a successful life sciences economy.

“To have that in the backyard of where I grew up, that’s awesome,” he said.

Fall Luncheon: Planning for the Future

Last Thursday, the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) delivered an overview of Clark County’s new Comprehensive Economic Development Plan, followed by a candid discussion with industry professionals about opportunities and challenges facing their businesses. A common theme emerged that was summed up well by panelist Mei Wu, of Smart RG: It’s about talent, talent, and talent. Whether it’s traditional manufacturing, high-tech R&D, or software, businesses are all focused on, and struggling with, attracting and retaining quality employees. The CREDC and its partners will work on a variety of fronts to address this over the life of the new plan.

Educational Partnerships: Much of the panel discussion centered on the relationship between employers and the education community. From early education and our K12 system to our higher education institutions, there is a charge for employers and academics to come together to both help students find their passion, and for employers to meet their staffing needs. While there was mixed opinion on the value employers place on applicants’ grade point averages, the group agreed that a prospective employee’s drive, teamwork, and problem solving skills were essential in today’s workplace. Panelists also highlighted the value that being intentional around diversity can bring to the bottom line and longevity of a company.

Bridging the Gap: While each of the panelists highlighted the individual strengths of Clark County within the region, they also highlighted the importance of being connected. As we build more high-level professional job opportunities in Clark County, we must consider that access to the greater regional job market for employees’ spouses is critical to a solid talent attraction and retention strategies. That means we must support transportation policies that improve multi-modal connections throughout the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) over projects that isolate us from broader opportunities and amenities.

We look forward to continuing to work with a broad range of partners in Clark County and beyond who believe, as we do, that we are in a transformative time. As we build upon the culture, history, and investments that have made this community great, we need your input and engagement to make our combined vision a reality. Find out more about how you can get involved here :

The Home Depot to Expand Corporate Office at New Facility in Vancouver, WA

Home Depot corporate office coming to Vancouver, to employ 200

Big things heading to Lower Grand

The Home Depot will expand at new facility in Vancouver

Home Depot actively hiring as it constructs new corporate office in Vancouver


VANCOUVER, Wash. (October 13, 2017) – Construction is officially underway on the first phase of development at Vancouver’s newest employment center, located east of the Grand Central Shopping center on Columbia House Boulevard. Expected to be completed in June 2018, the first building will welcome the Home Depot QuoteCenter (HDQC) as an anchor tenant of the new development.

Initially launched as a startup in Vancouver, QuoteCenter is a software application used by Home Depot store associates in over 2,000 locations nationwide to facilitate large product orders to professional contractors.

The 45,000 square foot facility will serve as the national headquarters for the HDQC division and is anticipated to house 200 employees, ranging from entry-level technical support to senior engineers, analysts, user experience (UX) designers and product managers. The HDQC currently has 130 employees in Vancouver that will be consolidated at the new headquarters and is actively hiring to meet its expansion needs.

“We’re thrilled to be part of the growth in Clark County and Vancouver and the team is very much looking forward to the new, contemporary facility,” said Nate Copper, general manager of Home Depot QuoteCenter.

“We are very excited that the Home Depot QuoteCenter chose to continue calling Vancouver home for their expansion, and appreciate the collaboration of both private and public sector partners working to find the best solution to meet the needs of this company,” said Mike Bomar, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC). “Clark County is gaining a reputation as a compelling choice for software and technology companies like HDQC who value access to a talented workforce paired with a high quality of living.”

Located in the City of Vancouver’s Lower Grand Employment Area, the employment center is anticipated to include 300,000-400,000 square feet of commercial office and retail space over 22 acres of land at full buildout.

“The Lower Grand Employment Area is a highly visible site that sits at the gateway to both Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and the downtown core,” said Eric Holmes, city manager for the City of Vancouver. “The City has long recognized the potential impact strategic development of this area can Page 2 of 2 have for the community and we are looking forward to seeing years of dedicated work by City planning staff in collaboration with the private partners coming to fruition.”

“We are fortunate to be a part of this community and have the opportunity to collaborate with the City of Vancouver, CREDC and the dynamic team at Home Depot. We are focused on reinventing the ‘business park’ model by creating an amenity rich collection of compelling work spaces with a great connection to inviting outdoor elements,” said Lance Killian, president of Killian Pacific.

Projections anticipate the completed site will support 1,500-3,000 direct jobs with average annual wages of $69,000, with a total of 2,510-5,020 total jobs supported throughout Clark County. The estimated economic impact includes annual payroll of $144-288 million and ongoing property and sales tax revenues of $3.4-6.3 million.

About The Home Depot QuoteCenter
At QuoteCenter, we're changing the way our colleagues at The Home Depot help their customers. Using leading-edge analytics and the latest web technologies, we're developing sales applications from the ground up, on a greenfield platform with a reactive microservices architecture. We're building change that's empowering over 300,000 associates in over 2,000 stores to help millions of customers move forward.

About Killian Pacific
Killian Pacific, for over 45 years, has been committed to enhancing communities for the long-term by developing real estate projects that improve the quality of life throughout Oregon and Washington. From day one, founder George Killian understood that business for him meant doing the right thing, maintaining strong relationships, and investing in local communities for the long term. These values still guide our company to this day.

Wearable-tech firm RealWear finding Fort Vancouver a good fit

RealWear is trading in the sleek, battleship-looking offices of Silicon Valley for one that predates World War I.

The maker of wearable tech, founded in Milpitas, Calif., said Tuesday it has officially named its office at the Fort Vancouver Artillery Barracks its new headquarters. The company leased the 12,000-square-foot space in the summer and moved in its first employees last week.

“We lovingly call it Fort RealWear,” said CEO Andy Lowery, a 25-year military veteran who started his company while in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

RealWear’s arrival was announced in the spring, during Mayor Tim Leavitt’s annual State of the City Address.

The company remained undecided on whether it would keep its headquarters in Silicon Valley, from which the latest tech inventions often originate. RealWear’s flagship device, the HMT-1, is a helmet-mounted display and microphone that links in-the-field workers with faraway support staff. That device has applications in several private industries as well as in the military.

However, Vancouver has become its home because Lowery was impressed with the community and local officials, he said. And the capital that props up big tech hubs like Silicon Valley and Seattle is available here, as well, he said. RealWear has already attracted substantial private investment, he said.

“Since I’ve been here, everything is falling into place for RealWear,” said Lowery, 45.

Built in 1904, the two-story artillery barracks once housed U.S. infantrymen where engineering stations now rest and computer cords slink across the floor. It is one of a handful of structures the Fort Vancouver National Trust has been refurbishing since February 2016.

With more than 20 full-time employees already in Vancouver, Lowery is optimistic they will top 30 by the end of the year, and top 100 by the end of 2018. He said local job openings have been filled almost as soon as they are posted.

“We put out a requisition for jobs — a general manager, an office manager — (and) we received over 100 applicants within a 24-hour period,” he said, adding that RealWear’s other employees are still in California, as well as salespeople on other continents.

RealWear’s news comes on the heels of receiving a $200,000 grant from the state Department of Commerce. The department tapped into its Economic Development Strategic Reserve Fund, which uses unclaimed lottery prize money to support business recruitment to the state.

Many businesses apply for these funds, and ultimately, it’s Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision whom to award. According to the Columbia River Economic Development Council, slightly more than $1 million has been awarded in Clark County in recent years. Other winners include AbSci LLC and Banfield Pet Hospital.

Lowery said the grant stipulates money has to pay for permanent improvements to the workplace. He said they will use it to set up security cameras, some internet infrastructure and pay for some design consultations for new labs.

The CEO said the grant signals a lot of optimism about the tech scene here.

“I’m telling you this because it’s absolutely dead true: The governor believes Southwest Washington is a ripe area for a technical renaissance,” he said.

Life sciences industry continues to emerge

Clark County’s biotech industry may not be as richly developed as its counterparts in Seattle or Bothell, but local economic developers say the sector is poised for new growth.

Biotech, the state’s fifth largest industry, has been gaining a foothold in Southwest Washington, with companies like CytoDyn, AbSci LLC, Molecular Testing Labs and Northwest Natural Products among its ranks. Across the state, the sector supports more than 98,000 jobs and generates more than $12.5 billion in revenues. In Clark County, there are already 73 companies employing about 20,500 workers, with more likely on the way, said Mike Bomar, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

“The life sciences cluster is seen as an emerging opportunity for Clark County with strong potential for job growth and firm formation,” Bomar said.

The CREDC has made the biotech sector a key part of its new 2017 strategic plan, and the agency is looking to build more partnerships to better understand the industry and its needs.

“It has been identified as one of five strategic sectors for CREDC to focus efforts on in our new 2017 Comprehensive Economic Development Plan,” said Bomar. “Efforts in recent years have centered primarily on building relationships with key industry partners throughout the region, better understanding the needs of the sector, and identifying gaps in the local ecosystem that could hinder future growth.”

CREDC’s work will focus on aligning strategies, committees, marketing and other activities around the sector, Bomar added.

“We will be collaborating closely with industry partners to identify what can be done at the local, regional, state and federal levels to address the needs of each of these sectors to support existing company growth and attract new companies to Clark County,” he said.

The sector’s growth is already starting to chug along in Southwest Washington. From 2012 to 2016, it grew 8.8 percent in Clark County, and that growth is forecasted to increase by an additional 12.5 percent by 2026, Bomar said.

Biotech, a term often used interchangeably with “life sciences,” refers to the scientific nexus of technology and biology. Companies in the sector are often involved in medical breakthroughs, solving environmental issues, developing reliable food sources, streamlining industrial manufacturing processes and creating new energy sources.

Clark County’s companies tend to be focused on the pharmaceutical, biomedical and chemical manufacturing sectors of the industry, although most of the sub-sects of biotechnology are present, Bomar said.

As an example, CytoDyn is developing an HIV treatment called “Pro 140” that uses antibodies to protect human T cells and basically lock out attempts by the HIV virus to penetrate them, said Nader Pourhassan, CEO.

“For the virus to get into the cell, it has to bind to two receptors on the surface of the cell,” Pourhassan explained. “If Pro 140 binds to one of those exact sites, the HIV can’t get in.”

CytoDyn has been in the area for some time. Pourhassan took over as CEO in 2008 and moved to Vancouver from Oregon to help build the company.

Pourhassan said he wants to keep the company in Vancouver, although in his case, if CytoDyn gets bought out by a big pharmaceutical company, that could change.

That often happens with smaller medically-focused biotech companies – they have to move to other parts of the country when they’re absorbed, Pourhassan explained.

Another biotech industry example, Absci LLC, which formed in Portland in 2011, moved to Vancouver in 2016. It has a protein manufacturing technology called SoluPro that reduces the production costs of therapeutic proteins and antibodies for medical treatment.

Absci made the jump across the river after renovating the top floor of downtown Vancouver’s Hudson Building. The firm turned the space into a state-of-the-art wet lab facility with an open layout to encourage collaboration between teams and departments. Wet labs are especially hard to find when biotech companies are looking for space, so the renovations were a big help, officials said.

Many companies are also drawn by access to some of the big healthcare players in the region, such as Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and locally-headquartered healthcare systems like Kaiser and PeaceHealth, Bomar said.

“Having such major healthcare players as PeaceHealth, Legacy Health, The Vancouver Clinic and Kaiser Permanente all headquartered in, or with a significant presence in Clark County, provides a strategic advantage in developing, attracting and retaining the skilled talent base needed to also support the life sciences sector,” Bomar said.

Those medical resources were certainly a draw for CytoDyn, which is working on clinical trials with both OHSU and Providence Medical Group in Vancouver, Pourhassan said.

Regional resources, and even waterfront development projects in both Vancouver and Portland, are also helping to build the sector, Bomar explained.

“In addition to the established presence of such players as OHSU, new developments such as the creation of the Knight Cancer Institute, efforts to advance the Innovation Quadrant Zone for bioscience on Portland’s South Waterfront, our own waterfront redevelopment projects here in Clark County, and a new life sciences building proposed for the WSU Vancouver campus, the Greater Portland region (including Clark County) is gaining prominence as an emerging draw for life sciences companies and talent,” he said.

There’s also some synergy potential to grow the computer technology side of the industry.
“There is an increasing intersection between life sciences and digital technology as advances in precision medicine continue to evolve, creating potential overlap with the software sector,” said Bomar.

Education is also key factor to spur growth in the industry, and schools in Clark County have been developing programs with organizations like the CREDC to help foster the workforce needs of the industry.

As part of its development plan, CREDC is looking for gaps in existing educational programs to see if other degrees and certificates would benefit the sector. Jobs in the industry pay very well, with a Washington industry average salary of $86,400 a year – 37 percent higher than the average wage for other private sector jobs, Bomar said.

“The life sciences sector is highly reliant upon a strong, well-educated workforce that draws from the research and science, healthcare professional, and medical services talent clusters,” Bomar said. “We are incredibly fortunate to have such a strong K-20 education system already in place that supports the growth of this talent pool, including WSU Vancouver (the region’s only tier one research institution), Henrietta Lacks Health & Bioscience High School, and the new dedicated STEM building at Clark College.”

CREDC Adopts New Strategic Plan to Guide Economic Development Efforts

On August 24, 2017, the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) Board of Directors (Board) officially adopted Phase II of the 2017 Clark County Comprehensive Economic Development Plan (Plan). Phase I of the Plan was previously adopted by the Board on April 27, 2017. The Plan, which aligns with the Greater Portland 2020 regional economic development action plan, establishes a 20-year vision with countywide goals and objectives, outlines an implementation plan to achieve specific action items over the next five years, and identifies key metrics to track and report progress. 

The CREDC was awarded a matching grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to help fund Phase II of the Plan, which included an in-depth regional competitiveness analysis of communities with similar target sectors, a detailed action plan with lead partners, metrics, and resources, a key performance indicator tool, and an executive summary. Leland Consulting Group (LCG) was contracted to complete both phases of the Plan in coordination with CREDC and with extensive input from local stakeholders. 

“The organization is committed to improving overall economic prosperity throughout Clark County,” said Greg Seifert, Chair, CREDC Board of Directors. “This strategic plan represents the culmination of nine months of intensive stakeholder engagement and input from local business and community leaders coming together to define the shared priorities and goals that can have the greatest impact.”

Over two hundred local partners representing cities, ports, education, workforce, downtown associations, nonprofits, chambers and businesses were engaged during a nine-month process to collaborate, create and refine the direction of this work. The Plan is intended to guide the scope of CREDC work plans and focus the collective energies of all economic development partners in the area around the shared goals and objectives identified to achieve the long-term vision that:

  • Clark County is one of the most inclusive, healthy, and amenity-rich communities in the country. With a continued focus to grow a diverse base of community-minded employers, talent (inside and outside the region) sees greater opportunity here than anywhere else in the country. 

    The kickoff to the Plan involved detailed one-on-one interviews with private sector business leaders facilitated by the Institute for Public Deliberation at Washington State University Vancouver, focused on identifying the opportunities and barriers to doing business in Clark County. An existing conditions and competitive analysis was also completed by LCG to provide a demographic, social and economic baseline for identifying the county’s assets and challenges. 

The strategic priorities identified through stakeholder engagement and data analysis emphasize the importance of building from within, cultivating talent, and promoting the quality of place. The goals and objectives that guide the specific action items identified in the Plan are as follows:

  • Goal 1: Expand the existing business base
    • Objectives:
      • Become industry experts
      • Strategically market industry clusters
      • Build a startup ecosystem
  • Goal 2: Support people
    • Objectives:
      • Foster skills development
      • Prepare youth for economic opportunity
      • Launch a brain gain initiative
      • Promote an ethical and just society through an intentional commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity
  • Goal 3: Create place
    • Objectives:
      • Each community creates a placemaking strategy
      • Embrace economic opportunity in our urban center
      • CREDC tells the story of place
      • Make employment areas desired by industry clusters shovel ready
      • Determine all transportation needs on a regional level that specifically support economic development

Five target sectors were identified as having the greatest potential for new growth based on industrial and occupational evaluations, as well as emerging versus retracting industry strengths. While CREDC will continue to work with many additional industries which will no doubt continue to be significant drivers of the local economy, the following target sectors will help focus the organization’s strategic efforts to move the needle on economic development:

  • Computer and Electronics
  • Clean Tech
  • Software
  • Metals and Machinery
  • Life Sciences

CREDC will now shift efforts to align internal work plans and committees around the target sectors and specific action items identified to achieve the goals and objectives of the Plan. 

“This strategic plan was truly shaped by the community, for the community,” said Mike Bomar, President, CREDC. “The successful implementation of the Plan is dependent upon the continuation of strong collaboration with our private, public, education, and nonprofit partners, each with a clear understanding of their role in achieving our unified vision of economic prosperity.” 

An executive summary along with the full 2017 Clark County Comprehensive Economic Development Plan can be found here. 

The Columbian: CREDC puts focus on talent

GROW Clark County: Wonder Women in Tech

A perfect summer evening at 3Peaks Public House and Taproom in Ridgefield was the setting for a thought-provoking discussion with three women who are changing the face of technology. 

Nationally, the proportion of women in computer science and tech fields has decreased from 37 percent in the 1980s to less than 18 percent today, and just 20 percent of Fortune 100 CIO positions were held by women in 2016.  As we work to grow a competitive and diverse economy that positively impacts our entire community, we can’t afford to NOT actively attract women to the field.  

The conversation explored all sides of the topic, including:

  •   What women uniquely contribute to technology and innovation;
  •   What employers can do to create a welcoming workplace for women;
  •   What women can do to succeed in this male-dominated field.

Each panelist was unique in the stage of her tech career and the path she is taking:

Kathryn Brown, CEO, ScoutSavvy
As a Women Studies major from Maine State University, her path to a tech industry career was not a straight line.  Along the way she realized that proactive steps are needed to encourage women into the tech industry and to help employers make it easy to hire.  Her firm ScoutSavvy is tailored to users with an approach similar to online dating sites, such as  Employers and job seekers build their profiles and the software identifies potential matches between employer and professional. 

Caterina Paun, Director of Women Who Code Portland
Both of Caterina’s parents are engineers, so choosing a tech career came naturally to her.  She currently works as a UX (user experience) Engineer and in her eight years in the profession has often been the only woman on the team.  In addition to her “day job,” Caterina is the director of Women Who Code Portland.  This nonprofit organization seeks to “inspire women to excel in technology careers by creating a global, connected community of women in technology.”

Dorota Shortell, CEO, Simplexity Product Development
Dorota Shortell took over for the founder of Simplexity Product Development in 2010 after working in the company as a senior mechanical engineer, project manager, and director of the Vancouver office. Simplexity is an engineering design service company that designs products like 3D printers, biotech equipment, wearables, and consumer products.  Dorota has almost 20 years of new product development experience and holds a U.S. patent. She graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and earned her master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. 

Employers Need Women on their Teams
Women bring a unique perspective to the profession and one that all employers should embrace to reach the highest level of innovation.  Women typically are focused on the achievements of the team over the achievement of themselves as individuals.  Women have different life experiences that they can bring to the creative side of tech.  These ideas can spur innovation in ways that a male-only workforce cannot. 

A CIO for a major U.S. company shared with me that when they hired one female on to their programming team the entire atmosphere changed.  Now, instead of individuals glued to their screens, there is information sharing, team building and new creative innovation happening.  The point was made that this extends beyond just women, and that having a diversity of backgrounds and experiences on a team can foster new ideas and creative problem-solving.   

Hire AND Retain Women
Hiring women into a male-dominated unit requires employers to think about how to create a healthy environment that will retain them.  As Kathryn Brown pointed out, give women challenging work and find ways to integrate us with our male counterparts.  Once you have one women on board, more will be interested to join your firm, says Caterina Paun.  Actively encourage conversation and activities where all can participate.  Executives can serve as role models for the kind of energy and interaction they want among their IT teams.

Advice for Women in Tech
Our panelists had lots of advice for those starting out in tech as well as those who are well into their careers.   

  • Tell your story to everyone who will listen.  Kathryn reluctantly told the story of her new tech company to a guest at a party.  To her surprise, he was also in the field and very interested to help her connect with key partners. 
  • Give a hand up to a newer colleague.  Dorota makes it a point to make time to meet with younger women seeking advice on how to make their way in the tech field.  Sharing your rolodex was another approach that our panelists use to help other women succeed.

Overall, the evening provided many new insights for all.  With so few women in tech today, this is an opportunity for all employers to create a differential advantage for their company by actively seeking to build an inviting workplace for a more diverse range of talent, including women.

Written by: Dr. Jane Cote, WSU Vancouver

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

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 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

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 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

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


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 ( 

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

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


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. 


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. 


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