Mike Schiller: Partnerships, assets priming Clark County for job growth
By Mike Schiller, Port of Vancouver Director of Business Development (As printed in the May 13 edition of the Vancouver Business Journal)
Each week, we hear from site selectors looking at the port and our region for businesses ranging from life sciences to manufacturing and supply. Among their top needs are a trained workforce, economical power, livability and easy access to major modes of transportation.
Thanks to partnerships, location and natural assets, we thoroughly meet these needs in Clark County.
Economic development groups like the Columbia River Economic Development Council; government agencies like the port, local governments, Clark PUD and school districts; and nonprofits like the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Building Industry Association and Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council, all work together to provide an enticing business and residential climate.
Our regional education system, from K-12 schools to community colleges, trade schools and WSU Vancouver, is focused on producing adaptive and well-trained workers. STEM programs, trade schooling and traditional four-year degrees produce a workforce with many levels of skill and knowledge – people that can go to work today for the employers of tomorrow.
Smart growth, a favorable business climate and community assets create high levels of livability, and we’re adding to that with a complete redevelopment of the downtown Vancouver waterfront. The Port of Vancouver, City of Vancouver and Columbia Waterfront LLC are revitalizing 45 acres along the Columbia River. Once complete, the waterfront will be a community treasure, with commercial and retail space, restaurants, hotels, public art and visitor amenities.
We are located at transportation crossroads. The Columbia River – our region’s original trade artery – is at our doorstep. Two interstate highways provide access across Southwest Washington and between Seattle and Portland. We’re on two rail mainlines that connect us north-south to Canada and Mexico, and east to Chicago. And the award-winning Portland International Airport is an easy drive for most of the county. These are critical assets as we work to attract employers and jobs to industrial property at the port, including Centennial Industrial Park and future heavy-industrial property at Columbia Gateway.
As a community, we’re working with focus and determination to ensure we’re attractive to both growing local companies and those looking to move here. And because of this focus, I believe we’re poised to grow faster than many other regions in the country.
Industry at the port is generally reflective of the local and regional economies. Over the last year, we’re seeing tenants like Boise Cascade, Plastics NW, Commodities Plus and Northwest Packing extend leases and grow beyond their current leaseholds.
New companies and business sectors, including life sciences, are looking at our waterfront property – Terminal 1 – which we’re developing as a life sciences park. This is a great new sector for Clark County. It brings good-paying jobs and has synergies with the regional medical technology cluster, which includes local entities such as Legacy and PeaceHealth as well as the University of Washington Medicine and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and Oregon Health and Sciences University and the Knight Cancer Institute in Portland, Oregon.
Looking to the future, we’ll need to continue leveraging our community’s vision and resources to support continued growth across Clark County and the port’s broad-based industrial, commercial and maritime activities.
Only by working together can we increase our competitiveness and ensure future generations have the same possibilities for employment and livability that we enjoy today. Our community expects no less.