2014: A year of business in Southwest Washington

Looking back at the year’s growing businesses, notable projects & accomplished professionals

Year in Review

A growing residential building and real estate market, a burgeoning high tech industry and a thriving manufacturing sector helped make 2014 a strong year for Southwest Washington.

In this special edition of the Vancouver Business Journal, we’re taking a look back at some of the year’s most successful businesses, notable projects and accomplished professionals.

Business Growth Awards
Hundreds of business professionals from around the region joined the Vancouver Business Journal in celebration of Southwest Washington’s growing companies during our annual Business Growth Awards.

The awards, which recognized growth in 2013, were held on April 24, 2014 at the Artillery Barracks building on the Fort Vancouver National Site. Award recipients, and the categories they were recognized in, included the following companies:

Fastest Growing Company 1-5 Years (Tie)

Tony CurtisCurrent Home Technologies, LLC

With net income growth of 1,100 percent over 2012 and 718 percent over 2011, Current Home Technologies LLC is clearly one of the fastest growing young companies in downtown Vancouver. The firm, which specializes in the design, installation, integration and sales of high-end consumer electronics, has more than doubled its full-time employee count in the last two years.

Owner Tony Curtis said that his secret sauce for success, compared with currently struggling big-box electronics stores, is a solutions-based approach, rather than simply selling product. These solutions include security systems, data networks, Wi-Fi, whole-house and custom audio, home theaters, lighting control and intercoms. The company can also help tie all these solutions together through systems integration.

“We work with clients from concept to completion,” said Curtis “We understand their likes, dislikes, wants, needs, and design tailored systems for their lifestyle.”

During the coming months, the company plans to expand to a total of three locations in the Southwest Washington and Portland metro area.

Russell BrentMill Creek Pub

“Even if you don’t think you have time, get involved,” said Russell Brent, owner of Mill Creek Pub. “Everything I’ve given, I’ve gotten back ten-fold. Take a leap of faith and it all comes back.”

That commitment to community support, Brent said, has been one of the main drivers of his pub’s meteoric success. It is also why, for the second year in a row, his business was in the running for a Business Growth Award.

Since opening its doors in Battle Ground near the end of 2011, Mill Creek Pub has created nearly 50 new jobs. Gross sales for the restaurant increased 28 percent from 2012 to 2013. Because of increased gross sales and effective cost management, the eatery has experienced a more than 30-percent increase in gross profit over the last year – nearly ten times the 3.8 percent national growth average for 2013 as reported in the recently released Restaurant Industry Forecast.

Over the next few years, Brent said, the pub plans to “continue to grow our business through community involvement, expand our off-site catering and add breakfast as a meal period.”

Finalists in this category: Ginn Realty Group; ProTech Composites Inc.; Webfor

Fastest Growing Company 6-10 Years

Tamara Leibfarthg-Simply ThymeSimply Thyme Catering

From its beginnings in 2005, Simply Thyme Catering has been steadily growing, with last year marking the beginning a new era of growth – the company added four employees in 2013, and the hiring continued this year. Other signs of growth include a 7 percent increase in gross profit over 2012, doubling square footage from 1,200 to 2,400, expanding the delivery fleet and adding cooking classes to their service offerings.

Owner Tamara Leibfarth cited three primary drivers of the firm’s growth: her commitment to quality, a newly burgeoning economy and a new contract for catering to the private jets that fly out of PDX. Growth, however, comes with challenges, said Leibfarth, the biggest of which is training new staff to ensure everyone is consistent.

Besides focusing on high-quality food and service, Simply Thyme also prides itself on its certification from Clark County Green Businesses.

Finalist in this category: Fantasy Sports Enterprises, LLC

Fastest Growing Company 10+ Years

Mike Parnell-Industrial TrainingIndustrial Training International

Woodland is home to Industrial Training International, a firm that has been helping numerous industries with their cranes and rigging since 1986. From aerospace to mining, from energy to the pulp and paper industry, ITI provides training and consulting services around the world. Besides their home office in Woodland, the company has an office in Edmonton, Alberta and a division in Latin America.

ITI has experienced steady revenue growth for the last several years. For its North America operations, the company doubled its 2009 revenue in 2013, and is projecting a 30 percent increase over last year’s figures in 2015. Client-site work continues to provide the majority of company revenue, aided by workshops, training centers and a company bookstore. Annual growth rates for the last three years have been about 32 percent, 15 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

This continued growth has enabled ITI to grow its employee base from 25 in 2011 to 28 in 2013, with plans to expand the Latin American division, add a new shop and additional office space in Woodland and build office space and add full-time staff in Edmonton. By 2015, ITI expects to employ at least 35 people.

Finalists in this category: NWCPA – Nanette Walker, CPA; Opsahl Dawson

Top Projects
On July 23, the business community joined the Vancouver Business Journal in celebrating the accomplishments of local contractors, architects, engineers and other building industry professionals during the 2014 Top Projects & Building Excellence Awards, held at Block 56 in downtown Vancouver (210 E. 13th Street). The area’s top projects – commercial, public and residential – were then highlighted in the July 25 print edition of the VBJ.

Here are the top three projects (ranked by construction cost) in each category:

Commercial projects

Regal Cinema KelsoRegal Cinemas Three Rivers Mall, Kelso

Construction cost: $10.8 million

Construction of the Regal Cinemas at Three Rivers Mall began in February 2014. The project is a new 11,469-square-foot stadium-seating multi-plex movie theater, with 2,416 seats and 12 screens. A tenant building consists of a metal roof truss system, exterior masonry bearing walls, interior bearing metal stud wall systems and concrete floors. Estimated completion date is this month.

General Contractor: S.D. Deacon

Project Owner: Rouse Properties

Community-Home-Health-and-Hospice_Site-ConstructionCommunity Hospice Care Center (Phase 1), Vancouver

Construction cost: $5.2 million

Construction kicked off in March of this year on the first phase of a 23,000-square-foot hospice care facility run by Community Home Health & Hospice (CHHH), a not-for-profit organization serving Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties in Washington and Columbia County in Oregon. Located on six acres in Salmon Creek, the facility provides the sense of being out in the country, despite being in the heart of the metro area. Estimated completion date is February 2015. Phase 2 of the project, which includes additional hospice beds, a memorial garden and space for the field staff, is expected to begin in 2016.

General Contractor: J.H. Kelly

Project Owner: Community Home Health & Hospice

Highway 99 projectMAJ Place HD, Vancouver

Construction cost: $5 million

A new multi-tenant development, MAJ Place HD is located on the former Steakburger site between Interstate 5 and Highway 99. Construction of the project kicked off in May and is nearing its completion date. When finished, it will offer 15,000 square feet of retail/office space. The anchor tenant is a 4,400-square-foot Panera Bread Café with drive-thru.

General Contractor: TEAM Construction

Project Owner: Michael A. Jenkins

Public projects

Woodland High SchoolWoodland High School, Woodland

Construction cost: $44.1 million

The construction of Woodland High School began in December 2013. The 154,000-square-foot project includes more than 35 classrooms on a 41-acre site. Classrooms will be supported by areas for administration, academic and career counseling, a library, computer rooms and a cafeteria located in a large central commons. Estimated completion is July 2015.

General Contractor: Skanska USA Building Inc.

Project Owner: Woodland School District

Ridgefield High School, Ridgefield

Construction cost: $23.1 million

The expansion of Ridgefield High School, which included a 12,400-square-foot classroom addition, a 41,000-square-foot gymnasium, a two-story multi-purpose space and extensive stadium improvements, kicked off in June 2013 and was recently completed. The project connects two existing campus buildings, providing passageway between them. The classroom addition is composed of eight classrooms and a group work or presentation area.

General Contractor: Triplett Wellman

Project Owner: Ridgefield School District

Crestline ElementaryCrestline Elementary School, Vancouver

Construction cost: $15 million

In February 2013, the original Crestline Elementary School was lost to fire. After the school’s destruction, the Evergreen Public Schools District staff worked to prepare a plan to return students to school as quickly as possible. The community showed their support by donating vital supplies to replace the ones lost in the fire. Once the immediate need was fulfilled, the district worked on plans for a replacement facility. The new school, a 61,600-square-foot, two-story building with classrooms, cooperative learning spaces, a commons, administrative areas and more, opened ahead of the 2014-15 school year.

General Contractor: Skanska USA Building Inc.

Project Owner: Evergreen Public Schools

Residential projects

Erickson FarmsErickson Farms (Phase 2 & 3), Vancouver

Construction cost: $20 million

Erickson Farms, which broke ground in July 2013, is a new residential community located in the heart of Felida, near Vancouver Lake. The development was the site of the 2014 Clark County Parade of Homes and features upscale homes on 61 lots.

General Contractor: Rotschy Inc.

Project Owner: Lake Shore Development Corporation/JB Homes

Ashley Ridge MapAshley Ridge (Phase 1), Vancouver

Construction cost: $15 million

Felida-based residential community Ashley Ridge features 38 lots with expansive home sites over 10,000 square feet, spacious home plans, and mountain and territorial views in a peaceful, natural setting. Construction of the development began in July 2013 and is now in additional phases of development.

General Contractor: Tapani Underground

Project Owner: Pacific Lifestyle Homes/Ashley Ridge South LLC

Lilac PlaceLilac Place Family Housing, Woodland

Construction cost: $5.5 million

Lilac Place Family Housing is a 38-unit apartment complex with a community center, playground and community garden. The complex, which broke ground in October 2013, utilizes wood frame construction with composite shingle roofing and vinyl windows.

General Contractor: TEAM Construction

Project Owner: Lilac Place Limited Liability Partnership

Healthiest Co.
Quail HomesQuail Homes

Category: Small Employer

“Our specialty since 1989 has been developing healthy living environments for people,” said Jon Girod, owner and builder at Quail Homes, “so we have to back that up as an employer.”

Quail Homes focuses on custom homes and remodeling, using the most recent techniques in green building, often in advance of the rest of the market, according to Girod.

With 12 full-time employees (half in construction, half in their Vancouver office), the company’s mantra is simple: Have fun and get work done. This “rule” empowers employees while fostering innovation and creativity, Girod said.

For their employees, Quail offers flex time to allow for low-stress scheduling, and to take care of their personal lives. Employees are encouraged to take time for activities such as yoga and walk/run events – things that keep stress out and physical energy in.

“Our business systems are completely mobile,” Girod explained. “Outside of the construction sites, our staff can log-in from anywhere, working where and when it works for them.”

Girod said his management philosophy centers around decreasing worker stress, emphasizing organized structure and open communication in all directions. He hopes to develop clear communication skills within his company, and continually seeks feedback from employees and subcontractors.

“My overall goal is to improve the lives of those building the home as well as those who will live in the home,” he said. “A healthy home and being well is something this company brings together.”

Dynamic EventsDynamic Events

Category: Mid Size Co.

Expanding Vancouver-based employer Dynamic Events plans and executes the details of other companies’ meetings, conferences and events. Their focus is every bit as meticulous when it comes to the health of their 35 local employees.

“We are an energetic company. Our staff travel a lot and work hard,” said Dana Clinton, director of operations, human resources and finance. “We want to support them in every way we can to keep them healthy and energized.”

Employees at Dynamic Events enjoy an on-site gym with cardio machines, weights, mats and a TRX system. Once per week a yoga instructor hosts a class, and a personal trainer comes to meet with employees twice a week.

“With the equipment and trainer right there, people are less likely to work through their lunch,” Clinton said. “They will work out instead.”

On a trail near the office, workers conduct both walking breaks and “walking meetings.”

Dynamic Events keeps their kitchen stocked with healthy drinks, sandwiches, fruit and veggies. For those who work out at their own gym at least 12 times per month, they offer reimbursement toward gym membership. When workers have been burning the candle at both ends, they can take advantage of nap areas. When professional healthcare is needed, the company provides full coverage of medical, dental and vision care.

“Health and activity becomes ingrained in our company culture with all of these options,” Clinton said.

Control Teck VPHR Stacy SmithControlTek

Category: Large Employer

At ControlTek, a Vancouver-based electronic manufacturing services provider, they offer high- and low-tech wellness options to their 150 employees.

“We have been committed to employee health for 43 years,” said Stacey LaFrazia-Smith, vice president of human resources and marketing. “We discovered along the way that people are often in health crises for very preventable conditions.”

ControlTek’s wellness vision is now nothing less than “to eliminate lifestyle related disease among our employees and their families.”

In addition to paying reduced health insurance premiums, the company supports a stress-reducing fun and healthy culture. One visit to ControlTek’s “company culture” webpage and visitors see a “VP of Hops” in a large pink bunny suit, working with high-tech equipment on Halloween.

The company’s formal wellness program includes annual biometrics testing, and on-site consultation with private and group wellness coaching.

“We have indoor and outdoor walking routes, and have had in the past a company soccer team, and company participation in many community walking and running events,” said LaFrazia-Smith.

Teams of employees compete in reaching walking goals, measured with company-provided pedometers. An indoor workout area provides low-cost workout options such as mats, weights, jump ropes and a basketball hoop.

“We’ve seen pretty amazing results,” said LaFrazia-Smith. “The biometrics has shown we have employees who have lost significant weight, lowered blood pressure and moved out of risk of diabetes.”

Miller NashMiller Nash

Category: Headquartered outside of Southwest Washington

Based out of Portland with an office in Vancouver, the large, multi-location legal firm of Miller-Nash may only have 18 local employees, but they enjoy the benefit of the whole firm’s wellness efforts.

“We participate in global corporate challenges as a team,” said Heather Harmon, legal assistant at the Vancouver office. “We get out in the community, too, with teams for the Shamrock Run, Human Society Walk for Animals, the Heart and Stroke Walk, Make A Difference Day and more. We hope our employees’ healthy lifestyles extend to their home life and families, so we do what we can to include them.”

Each year, employees can log their fitness efforts in a Passport to Wellness, with cash drawings and prizes for those who meet their goals.

“It is designed so that people can set their own goals, and not compete with those who enjoy more or less intense activity,” said Harmon. In addition to the year-long challenge, the company hosts four-week “Choose Your Move” challenges as well.

“Movement Money” is available to subsidize active employees who pay gym membership fees, as well as athletic event entry fees, and Discover Pass parking permits for area trails.

Their local office offers bicycle storage and on-site showers, as well as standing desk options. Employees can find healthy snacks and vending options at work, and health magazines in the break room.

“Our wellness efforts really build camaraderie among our employees,” said Harmon. “It dissolves barriers between departments and creates bonds that might not otherwise form.”

AU40 classAccomplished under 40

Our look back at the year in business would not be complete without recognizing the Vancouver Business Journal’s Accomplished & Under 40 Class of 2014. Honorees are selected each year by a panel of Accomplished & Under 40 alumni after being nominated by members of the community.

This year’s honorees were:

John Andersen – Police Activities League of Vancouver

Douglass Maxwell “Max” Ault – CREDC

John Blom – Hasson Realtors

Kate Budd – Clark County

Brian Davis – Energy Events

Aaron Dawson – Opsahl Dawson

Laura Ellsworth – Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest

PJ Fisher – Riverview Community Bank

Kevin Getch – Webfor

Ryan Greear – Frumenti Lander & Wallace

Rabbi Shmulik Greenberg – Jewish Business Network

Sean Janson – PR Aqua

Daniel Kirkwood – Kirkwood & Kirkwood

Tracey Malone – Halbert Construction

Kimberly Pincheira – CREDC

Amy Price – Riverview Community Bank

Adam Roselli – Eric Fuller & Associates

Admir Sabic – International Air & Hospitality Academy

Tiffany Schwieterman – Clark County

Wendy Sturm – We Plan It

Axel Swanson – Clark County