A red hot real estate market, a blossoming tech industry and a thriving manufacturing sector helped make 2015 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 2014, were held on April 22, 2015 at the Heathman Lodge in Vancouver. Award recipients, and the categories they were recognized in, included the following companies:
Start-up of the Year
Based in Vancouver, NW Legacy Law Center offers complimentary workshops, a complimentary “vision meeting” and fixed-pricing estate planning options, which owner Thomas Hackett says puts him in charge of the quickest, most efficient path to completion of an estate plan and takes the worry out of fee-by-the hour billing for his clients.
“Our plan is to offer a simplified process for estate planning that tackles the complicated issues in a way that makes it easy for people to get their estate plan in place,” Hackett said.
Hackett collaborates with other local attorneys in their respective specialty to address specific concerns such as real estate and business succession on a case-by-case basis, which allows NW Legacy Law to choose the best attorney for every project.
Recent staff additions are anticipated to increase the firm’s capacity by about 200 percent, Hackett predicted.
In its first year, NW Legacy Law Center was named Best in Business (Law Firm) by readers of the Vancouver Business Journal and this year was named Best of Clark County (Attorney) by readers of The Columbian.
Fastest Growing Company 1-5 Years
SmartRG designs and produces hardware and software solutions to help Internet service providers and broadband operators monitor, manage and monetize the connected home. Since SmartRG was spun off from its parent company in 2012, CEO Jeff McInnis has more than doubled the number of staff. Earlier this year, the company increased its office space from 2,600 square feet to almost 6,000. Additionally, the company now has a warehouse facility on Airport Way in Portland, which serves as SmartRG’s main distribution center as the company’s growth continues.
SmartRG’s net income increased 114 percent from 2012 to 2013, and another 66 percent in 2014. To further fuel growth, the company teamed up with a Danish industrial design firm to improve the visual style of SmartRG’s product lines and is expanding its offerings in Wi-Fi and advanced home automation services, in addition to the firm’s core products. In April, McInnis said the company plans for client growth of over 1,000 percent by 2016.
Finalists in this category: Michael’s Floor Covering Inc.; Mill Creek Pub; Pure Imagination LLC
Fastest Growing Company 6-10 Years
SunModo Corporation develops, manufactures and sells solar photo-voltaic (PV) racking and mounting solutions to residential installers, commercial integrators and other solar providers in North America. Founded in 2008, the company has been profitable from the start. Compared to 2013 revenue, 2014 revenue was 53 percent higher, and the company expects 2015 revenue to be up even more.
With several hundred customers in North America, the firm is expanding collaboration with solar leasing companies and vertically integrated solar PV companies. The company’s employee base is also increasing. They hired a handful of new team members this year and, in 2016, they plan to add at least four more employees. While currently 95 percent of their business is in the United States, they are expanding international sales efforts in sunny places such as Mexico, Canada and Latin America.
Finalists in this category: Pacific Perks Coffee, LLC; Simply Thyme Catering
Fastest Growing Company 10+ Years
Mary Jane’s House of Glass has seen steady growth since its inception as a quality smoking accessories store for medical marijuana in 2000, but sales soared when cannabis was legalized in Washington state at the end of 2012.
“Mary Jane’s has 11 locations between Washington and Oregon. Since 2010, Mary Jane’s has opened seven stores and has almost quadrupled employee count in the past three years from approximately 25 employees to 95 employees,” said Brandon Brock, CEO.
Over the past two fiscal years alone, revenue at Mary Jane’s has increased by approximately 150 percent.
Plans call for an expansion of their e-commerce and website presence and a move toward radio and television advertising as well as celebrity endorsements. Mary Jane’s Glass Productions, a 7,500 square-foot extension of Mary Jane’s House of Glass, is located at the Port of Camas/Washougal wherein a trade school curriculum for apprentice glass blowers is being created.
“Since legalization,” Brock said, “we have been continuously adding new customers to our base. We have seen a boom in the baby boomer demographic who have decided to return to cannabis use.”
Finalists in this category: Audigy Group; Opsahl Dawson; Trail Tech Inc.
Innovator of the Year
By acquiring CID Bio-Science and developing Felix Instruments-Applied Food Science, Leonard Felix, company president, oversees two businesses that support one another based on their individual strengths.
CID Bio-Science engineers, manufactures and sells a line of portable instruments for plant data collection in the lab or out in the field while Felix Instruments-Applied Food Science takes that data and applies it to maintaining quality for large scale food production.
Explaining how Felix Instruments-Applied Food Science came about, Felix said, “We dabbled in re-selling other manufacturers’ gear as well as entering the LED lighting for horticulture industry. Eventually we decided to apply our understanding of plant physiology to address the needs of commercial produce growers, packers and retailers.”
With urban greenhouses, hydroponics and other methods to grow fresh produce in non-traditional settings on the rise, the popularity of the product lines at CID Bio-Science/Felix Instruments has resulted in more employees over the last two years and increased revenue growth in 2015.
CID Bio-Science/Felix Instruments also partners with community efforts to support sustainability such as New York SunWorks Urban Greenhouse Initiative.
Finalists in this category: Pure Imagination LLC; sHOPBOX; SunModo Corporation
On July 22, the business community joined the Vancouver Business Journal in celebrating the accomplishments of local contractors, architects, engineers and other building industry professionals during the 2015 Top Projects & Building Excellence Awards, held at the Clark College STEM building project site along Fort Vancouver Way. The area’s top projects – commercial, public and residential – were then highlighted in the July 24 print edition of the VBJ.
Here are the top three projects (ranked by construction cost) in each category:
Construction cost: $50,000,000
The Banfield Headquarters is a 206,000-square-foot new construction of Class A office space including interior build-out and 17 acres of site-work, landscaping and other related site improvements. The project is targeted for LEED Gold. The building is expected to be complete this spring.
General Contractor: Skanska USA Building
Project Owner: Columbia Tech Center LLC, managing member Pacific Realty Associates, LP (PacTrust)
COMMERCIAL: Walmart Supercenter, Vancouver
Construction cost: $14,596,378
This project involved the completion of a 155,561-square-foot Walmart Super Center. It faced substantial challenges both in wetland preservation/mitigation efforts and inside-watering to ensure soil stabilization to allow for timely construction of the project. The project finished on time and on budget.
General Contractor: R&O Construction
Project Owner: R&O Construction
COMMERCIAL: The Hudson, Vancouver
Construction cost: $10,000,000
Located at the corner of East Sixth Street and Main Street, this new 45,000-square-foot creative office building features 15’ high ceilings with exposed heavy timber columns, beams and ceilings reminiscent of open warehouse spaces built in the early 1900s. Other features include a bicycle commuter facility with secure bike parking and private showers, expansive operable windows, a one-of-a-kind two-story atrium lounge, meeting rooms and LEED certification. The project is nearly complete.
General Contractor: Turner Construction
Project Owner: Broadway Investors II LLC
Project Developer: Killian Pacific
Construction cost: $37,000,000
Clark College’s new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building is part of a growth project identified in the school’s 2007 master plan update. Situated on a previously developed site, the 70,000-square-foot, $27.3 million facility will improve program collaboration by providing dedicated office, classroom and lab space for previously-dispersed biology, chemistry, engineering, physics and geology programs. The building, which is expected to be complete in the early spring, is designed to meet the requirements of LEED Silver Certification.
General Contractor: Skanska USA
Project Owner: Clark College
PUBLIC: Vancouver I-205 interchange I-205/Mill Plain Interchange To Northeast 18th Street, Stage 2, Vancouver
Construction cost: $32,845,000
This project is a new partial interchange on I-205 at Northeast 18th Street, including a system of on-and-off ramps/frontage roads on both the east and west side of I-205 between the Mill Plain Interchange and Northeast 18th Street. The new access on 18th Street will provide congestion relief and improve safety along I-205 around the existing Mill Plain interchange, giving drivers a new option to I-205. The project should be complete this spring.
General Contractor: Cascade Bridge LLC
Project Owner: Washington Dept. of Transportation
PUBLIC: Vancouver State Route 502, I-5 to Battle Ground, Add Lanes, Stage 2, Battle Ground
Construction cost: $27,545,360
This project widened state Route 502 from Battle Ground to Dollars Corner. Work included clearing and grubbing; grading; subgrade improvement; installing storm sewers; surfacing; installing flexible paving; construction of a bridge and three precast, reinforced, concrete, three-sided structures; constructing a structural embankment with concrete columns; and installing a median barrier, guardrail, pavement markings, traffic signals, illumination, signing, intelligent transportation system, erosion control, traffic control and associated work. The project is nearing completion.
General Contractor: Rotschy Inc.
Project Owner: Washington Dept. of Transportation
Construction cost: $26,500,000
MWIC Vancouver LLC is finishing construction on the Columbia View Apartments, a market-rate multi-family housing community on approximately 17 acres located at 4801 E. Fifth St. in Vancouver. This project was completed in two phases, with 176 units in phase one and 144 units in phase two. Columbia View offers one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment homes with modern kitchens, quartz countertops and upgraded cabinets, Columbia River views, outdoor swimming pool with an expansive sundeck and an online concierge.
General Contractor: SharpCor
Project Owner: MWIC Vancouver LLC
RESIDENTIAL: Woodridge II, Vancouver
Construction cost: $19,000,000
Currently under construction, Woodridge II is a 114-lot development with one- and two-level detached homes. Woodridge II is located on the east side of I-205, close to the freeway and several amenities. Homes in the development are approximately 1,600 square feet in size with front yard landscaping and built-in sprinklers.
General Contractor: Columbia Pacific Construction
Project Owner: Woodridge II, JB LLC
RESIDENTIAL: The Reserve at Ashley Ridge (Ashley Ridge II), Vancouver
Construction cost: $18,000,000
Located in the Felida area of Vancouver, The Reserve at Ashley Ridge is a 37-home gated community situated on large lots of up to 20,000 square feet with homes of up to 3,600 square feet in size. Houses feature premier kitchen layouts and mountain views.
General Contractor: Pacific Lifestyle Homes
Project Owner: Pacific Lifestyle Homes
Healthiest Companies of Southwest Washington
Studies continue to show that good health practices at work create a more productive and efficient environment with less absenteeism, proving that the “daily grind” doesn’t have to be a grind.
After a call for submissions and subsequent selection process by an independent panel of industry experts, the following four organizations were recognized in the October 31, 2014 edition of the Vancouver Business Journal for making the 9-to-5 a happier and healthier experience for their employees:
Healthiest Company – Private Sector/Nonprofit
Kaiser Permanente calls The Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL) its poster child because of its high participation rate in the insurance provider’s online wellness program.
As a Kaiser Permanente subscriber, the FVRL is allotted several thousand dollars in wellness incentives for events that encourage healthy habits and participation.
Every year, FVRL hosts an annual month-long wellness event. This year, employees formed teams or competed individually in a program called Happy Trails – with the goal to exercise, eat more vegetables and drink more water. Everyone who participated – about 75 percent of FVRL’s employees – received an hour of paid leave.
Employees work both sedentary highly active jobs at more than 10 libraries and offices throughout Southwest Washington. Because of this dynamic, FVRL offers ways to stay physically active during and outside of work. The organization facilitates on-site yoga classes during work hours and supplements employees annually for their gym memberships.
Besides physical activity, FVRL has focused on providing healthy food in the workplace. It hosts a monthly potluck, which encourages employees to bring healthy dishes. Also, some junk food in the library’s vending machines has been replaced with healthy snacks.
FVRL has plans to decrease the chemicals that its employees are exposed to. For example, the organization has replaced receipt paper with nonhazardous paper and has ordered biodegradable janitorial products.
“We want to see more staff become even healthier,” said Sherry Braga, who is FVRL’s volunteer coordinator and a member of the wellness committee. “And we want to continue to partner with Kaiser to encourage good healthy behavior.”
Healthiest Company – Small Employer
Boutique accounting firm Opsahl Dawson wants to change what people think about accountants when it comes to their health.
“I’ve recognized that employees are the most important asset we have,” said Aaron Dawson, president and shareholder of Vancouver-based Opsahl Dawson, which also has offices in Longview. “So we do everything in our power to make sure that they’re comfortable.”
Some of these tools include standing desks and nutrition and weight management. Each employee also has a Fitbit to track steps and is encouraged to participate in weekly fitness challenges.
Opsahl Dawson conducts “Biggest Loser” challenges where participating employees report weight loss each week and report the results to the firm. The challenge creates accountability and encouragement, said Dawson.
And when tax season – from February to mid-April – rolls around with grueling 60 hour-work weeks, accountants have access to free healthy Saturday lunches and fresh fruit and granola bars throughout the week. This keeps energy levels up, said Dawson.
“Office donuts are a thing of the past for us,” he said. “Once you get momentum going, people don’t want to go backwards.”
Healthiest Company – Mid-sized Employer
Battle Ground-based Mill Creek Pub is one of the few restaurants in Southwest Washington to encourage its wait staff, bartenders and cooking staff to quit smoking, eat healthier and exercise more.
“Health is peoples’ source of wealth,” said Russell Brent, owner of Mill Creek Pub. “Without health, happiness is almost impossible.”
Mill Creek’s wellness program includes discounted healthy food, weight loss challenges, weekly hikes and smoking cessation help.
The restaurant industry has a higher rate of smoking than many other industries. Smokers often take multiple breaks, which decrease productivity, said Brent. “All you have to do is go by the dumpsters at any restaurant and see cigarettes everywhere,” he said.
Already, three employees have participated in the program, which offers participants up to $50 per month toward smoking cessation products – whether that’s the patch or nicotine gum.
Since Brent launched the program, the restaurant’s chef has quit smoking and has lost 70 pounds from participating in the wellness program, especially by eating healthier.
To encourage healthy eating, employees receive a 75 percent discount – compared to the normal 50 percent – when they order healthy menu options.
Healthiest Company – Large Employer
This fall, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) designated Camas-based WaferTech as its first Health Champion in the Oregon and Southwest Washington region.
“Diabetes is expensive to manage and is one of the top cost drivers of rising health insurance premiums,” said Lauren Bryan, manager of special events and fundraising for the ADA of Oregon, Southwest Washington and Southern Idaho. “So employers should have a lot of incentive to help their workforce prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.”
In order to qualify for the recognition, WaferTech had to meet certain criteria in nutrition, physical activity and organizational wellbeing.
The semiconductor contract manufacturer has its own medical providers on-site, including a physical therapist who treats injured employees. The company also gives biometric screenings throughout the year to help employees become aware of the health areas where they need to take action, said Alison Dezsofi, Wafertech’s benefits analyst.
To help employees stay in shape, Wafertech offers a 24-hour gym, low-calorie healthy meals at its cafeteria, yoga classes and a Weight Watchers program, in which participants have already lost a total of 1,400 lbs. The company encourages employees to take short breaks and walk around the office throughout the day.
“Our wellness team’s mission is to find fun ways to foster healthy habits and to enhance the quality of life,” said Dezsofi. “Research shows that healthy employees are happier, have higher productivity and less absents.”
Healthiest Company – Headquartered outside of Southwest Washington
Perkins & Co.
Most of Perkins & Co.’s wellness-related activities are employee driven.
“Instead of our owners telling employees to do something, they (the employees) are involving each other in what makes them happy,” said Dave Sullivan, shareholder and director of business development at Perkins & Co., which has about 130 employees throughout its Portland and Vancouver offices.
The accounting firm’s employee-run wellness committee orchestrates physical challenges throughout the year, including a challenge during tax season (January through May).
In this year’s challenge, employees generated 235,182 minutes of exercise in nine weeks, and more than 50 percent of the company participated. Other mini-challenges have included contests for the most steps and the most sleep hours. The committee also coordinates a yoga series twice a year.
“We’ve seen an increase in employee morale, relationship building and passion for common activities,” said Sullivan.
Other perks that keep employees healthy include a bi-weekly massage therapist, standing work stations, company paid meals during the busy season, free financial seminars and a company quiet room.
The quiet room – equipped with a recliner, blankets and a white noise machine – encourages employees to get away from their desks and recharge.
“Our initiatives aren’t necessarily intended to increase employee productivity,” said Sullivan. “We do it because it’s fun, the right thing to do and makes for a better workplace for all of us.”
Accomplished & Under 40
Each member of the Accomplished & Under 40 Class of 2015 has their own inspirational story. Some are innovators and creators, while others are developers and motivators. Some donate and fundraise, while others volunteer and mentor. Despite working in different industries and organizations, each one lifts up their community, striving to improve the place we all call home. Check out our Accomplished & Under 40 Class of 2015 coverage beginning on page six. – Photo by Kate Singh.
Our look back at the year in business would not be complete without recognizing the Vancouver Business Journal’s Accomplished & Under 40 Class of 2015.
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:
Annie Banceu, Compass Church
Bryce Davidson, Davidson & Associates Insurance
Nikole Duke, Legacy Restoration LLC
Kristopher Fay, Evergreen Public Schools
Lindsay Fisher, Evergreen Memorial Gardens
Sunny Golden, Hilton Vancouver
Charmi Gosalia, Audiology Clinic
Thomas Hackett, NW Legacy Law Center
Jesse Harvey, Sherwin Williams
Darcy Hoffman, WorkSource
Ryan Kramer, Frumenti, Lander & Wallace
Erin Lambley, Landerholm
Aaron Marvin, ACT Builders
Melissa Mohr, PeaceHealth
Larry Stafford, Clark County
April Truong, Spoiled Spa & Salon
The class of 2015 was recognized during a luncheon on November 3 at the Heathman Lodge.