2016: A year of business in Southwest Washington

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

Year in Review 2016 aerial

A hot housing market, a busy construction season and a thriving tech sector helped make 2016 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 presented by Riverview Community Bank. The awards, which recognized growth in 2015, were held on April 20, 2016 at the Battle Ground Community Center. Award recipients, and the categories they were recognized in, included the following companies:

Start-up of the Year
Trap Door BrewingTrap Door Brewing

When Bryan Shull launched Trap Door Brewing last October, it was just a few blocks from his childhood home. A “repeat entrepreneur,” Shull has owned several successful businesses prior to starting Trap Door. As a sign of his skill, the company had a 15-percent profit margin in 2015, unheard of for a start-up brewery. The company has already signed a distribution contract and has more than doubled their kegging capacity. Dozens of taverns, restaurants and pizzerias in Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania Counties are serving Trap Door beer; their IPA is ranked #2 in our area on the popular mobile app Untappd.

Several aspects of Trap Door set them apart from the “co-opetition.” They use 100-percent reverse osmosis water for their beer and drinking water. Located in Uptown Village, Trap Door hosts Vancouver’s first food cart pod and has one of the city’s largest-capacity outdoor seating areas, which expanded by 30 to 40 seats this summer.

Reaching out beyond the standard 20-45 white male audience, Trap Door is hedging its bets by targeting a variety of lifestyle groups including running clubs, cyclists, beer tasting clubs, artists, families and more.

Finalists in this category: Formal Flush; Why Racing Events

Fastest Growing Company 1-5 Years (TIE)
Blue Door BakeryBleu Door Bakery

When Bleu Door Bakery owner Bonnie Brasure was growing up, her mother would take her grocery shopping. Brasure would spend her allowance money on cake mixes. At home, she would make a cake, but add a different ingredient each time – chocolate or cinnamon, nuts or vanilla. She still remembers the smiles on her parents’ faces when they took their first bite.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll find Brasure baking bread and other pastries every day at Bleu Door, which is located in Vancouver’s Uptown Village. The bakery has surpassed its yearly budget goals every year since it opened in October 2011. Profits have grown each year by 30 percent and the number of employees has grown as well.

Brasure purchased Bleu Door’s current Main Street building in 2014, and expanded the business to begin serving sit-down breakfast and lunch. The bakery started with 36 seats, and last summer added 28 more.

Heathen BrewingHeathen Brewing/Feral Public House

2015 was a banner year for Heathen Brewing – a local brewery with a mission to make small batches of “progressive ales for the promiscuous palate.”

The brewery opened its downtown Vancouver public house, Feral Public House, in July 2015, serving upscale gastropub fare. The company’s revenue tripled and profits doubled. The brewery added 30 full-time jobs, for a total of 35 employees.

Heathen Brewing proudly sources its hops and other ingredients locally, and brews seasonal and experimental beers throughout the year. The names the brewery gives its beers, such as Arson Amber Ale, Vantucky Pale Ale, Carnage Double IPA, aren’t the only whimsical thing about the company: the faucet handles in the Feral Public House’s restrooms are beer taps.

Heathen Brewing has won numerous awards for its beers. Its Transcend IPA was awarded the People’s Choice Award during the 2014 Vancouver Summer Brewfest. The IPA has also won awards at the Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest.

Readers of the Vancouver Business Journal have named Heathen Brewing as “Best Brewery” in the journal’s Best in Business Awards for four straight years.

Brandon SkinnerRiverside Payments

Riverside Payments offers services that make it a one-stop merchant service provider: mobile processing, merchant cash advance, reporting tools, point of sale systems, ATM installation, ongoing support and an array of other services. The company was founded in 2014 and has ambitions to be the fastest growing company in Vancouver. It certainly is growing: it started with three employees and as of last spring, had 49 full-time employees and nearly 100 independent contractors.

Riverside acquired 3,500 square feet of office space near Cascade Station, in Portland, where its marketing department is now headquartered. In January 2016, its corporate offices moved into a 4,500-square-foot space at the Park Towers Business Center in Vancouver. Riverside has also opened satellite offices in Washington, Utah and Texas.

Riverside attributes its rapid growth to its focus on customer service and emphasis on building long-term relationships with merchants. Outside of business, Riverside donates portions of its profits to different charitable causes every month.

Finalists in this category: Emanar Cellars; Kendall’s Pioneer Distributing; Mill Creek Pub; SmartRG

Fastest Growing Company 6-10 Years
Kieth ScottPacific Energy Concepts

Pacific Energy Concepts provides commercial and industrial lighting design and control services to businesses and creates energy-efficient lighting solutions that maximize on incentive programs, helping customers cut their business’ utility bills by as much as 50 percent. In 2011, Energy Trust of Oregon named Pacific Energy Concepts a “Top Performing Trade Ally” because of how much energy their customers were able to save.

Pacific Energy Concepts doesn’t skimp on aesthetics. The company calls it “lighting done right.” Company consultants work with business owners from design to installation and focus on getting to know a business’s particular lighting needs. The company has clients throughout the Pacific Northwest and what started as a one-employee outfit has grown rapidly.

Revenues routinely double in a single year, at the very least, and the company often surpasses its aggressive revenue targets. Growth, since 2009, has averaged more than 800 percent.

Finalists in this category: Aadland Dental; BearThyme Catering/Simply Thyme Catering; SunModo; Webfor

Fastest Growing Company 10+ Years (TIE)

Established in 2006, NetRush is a third-party seller on Amazon.com. Not just a reseller, NetRush collaborates with hundreds of premium brands and uses extensive marketplace knowledge and resources to execute a brand’s purpose and vision. The co-founders’ (Brian Gonsalves and Chris Marantette) focus on honesty, reliability and determination has led the company to success.

In early 2013, NetRush opened a processing facility in Kentucky that receives, inspects and reprocesses all products that will eventually be located in Amazon’s warehouses spread across 17+ states. The company employed only 12 people in 2012, compared to 82 in 2015 – just over the past 12 months, NetRush has doubled its staff. In late 2015, the firm moved from a small office to a 12,000-square-foot space along Mill Plain Boulevard in Vancouver that will accommodate the firm’s growth. The company’s revenue has grown by almost 150 percent over the last two years.

The company considers itself a “team of thinkers, doers, and problem solvers” that will make good use of the collaborative floor plan of the new headquarters.

“We’re very excited to be in a space that allows us to keep growing, diversifying and excelling,” said CEO Brian Gonsalves.

Ken Calwell - Papa MurphysPapa Murphy’s

Papa Murphy’s operates the largest take-and-bake pizza chain in the U.S. The Vancouver-headquartered firm opened 111 new stores in 2015, 46 of them in the 4th quarter. As of the end of 2015, the company had achieved positive comparable store sales growth in 42 of the last 48 quarters.

Employee growth has been steady. At the time of the Business Growth Awards, Papa Murphy’s had 2,101 employees, and created 126 jobs in Vancouver. The company’s corporate headquarter employee count went from 82 in 2012 to 126 in 2015. The Vancouver corporate office expanded its office space in July 2015, increasing the HQ size by 10 percent. In 2014 the company became publicly traded.

Papa Murphy’s remains active in the community, working with organizations like Urban Gleaners and Share to help provide food to needy families.

In the last year, the chain has won several awards, including Zagat #1-Rated Pizza Chain, Chain of the Year, and the Franchisee Satisfaction Award.

The company announced expansion plans in the Midwest and Southern United States earlier this year.

Finalists in this category: Cascade Flooring America; Columbia Okura; Lewis Group, CPAs; Mary Jane’s House of Glass; Nautilus, Inc.; Opsahl Dawson

Top Projects

On July 27, the business community joined the Vancouver Business Journal in celebrating the accomplishments of local contractors, architects, engineers and other building industry professionals during the 2016 Top Projects & Building Excellence Awards, held at the ilani Casino project site just west of the I-5 La Center Exit. The area’s top projects – commercial, public and residential – were then highlighted in the July 29 print edition of the VBJ.

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

Commercial projects
Ilani CasinoIlani, Ridgefield
Construction cost: $196,000,000

Developed by Salishan-Mohegan LLC in collaboration with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, ilani will be a premier gaming, dining, entertainment and meeting destination in Southwest Washington when completed in spring 2017. The 368,000-square-foot facility will have 15 restaurants, bars and retail shops; a 100,000-square-foot gaming floor with 2,500 slot machines, 75 table games, a high limit gaming room and VIP Lounge; and event space with seating for up to 2,500 guests.

General contractor: Swinerton Builders
Project owner: Cowlitz Indian Tribe

Sunlight SupplySunlight Supply World Headquarters, Vancouver
Construction cost: $26,000,000

Sunlight Supply is consolidating its five Southwest Washington facilities into a single 306,000-square-foot building. The new headquarters will feature 173,000 square feet of warehouse space, 80,000 square feet of office space, 49,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 4,000 square feet of greenhouse space for testing and research. When complete during the first quarter of next year, Sunlight Supply’s new world headquarters is expected to generate in excess of $17 million in wages and $19 million with local vendors annually.

General contractor: Perlo Construction
Project owner: Craig Hargreaves

Erickson FarmsErickson Farms Phase 6, Camas
Construction cost: $12,000,000

Erickson Farms Phase 6 consists of six commercial buildings located in the Erickson Farms subdivision (known as Village Center) with 25,000 square feet of commercial space and 15,000 square feet of office/ loft space.

General contractor: Rotschy Inc.
Project owner: Lake Shore Development Corp.

Public projects
The Vine busesC-Tran Bus Rapid Transit Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver
Construction cost: $15,352,230

Fourth Plain Boulevard is the most heavily used transit corridor in C-TRAN’s system with over 6,000 daily trips that has resulted in a service that is often unreliable and overcrowded. The Vine, the region’s first bus rapid transit line, will implement a modern, enhanced transit line along the Fourth Plain and Fort Vancouver Way corridors between downtown Vancouver and the Vancouver Mall. The project consists of construction of 33 new bus stops, as well as traffic signal, storm, water, sewer and street improvements. Construction on the project wrapped up this month.

General contractor: Tapani Inc.
Project owner: C-Tran

Camas Water PlantSlow Sand Filter Water Treatment Plant, Camas
Construction cost: $5,799,978

This project involved the construction of a new drinking water treatment plant, including an administration building with office, shop and process area; a roughing filter, filter gallery, slow sand filters and associated site improvements. The project was completed in March.

General contractor: Rotschy Inc.
Project owner: City of Camas

NE 94thNortheast 94th Avenue, Padden Parkway to 99th St., Clark County
Construction cost: $5,609,203

This project widened Northeast 94th Avenue from two lanes to three lanes and constructed bicycle lanes and sidewalks. The work, finished over the summer, included intersection improvements at Padden Parkway and Northeast 94th Avenue as well as new traffic signals. Primary work included the construction of storm water collection treatment systems, sewer lines, water lines, surfacing, cement concrete curb, gutter and sidewalk, pavement markings and associated work.

General contractor: Tapani Inc.
Project owner: Clark County

Residential projects
Pleasant View EstatesPleasant View Estates Phases 2 & 3, Vancouver
Construction cost: $43,500,000

This project consists of five tax lots totaling about 88 acres of residential development. Site work included grading the site for residential lots with associated streets, underground utilities and water facilities. The project broke ground in September 2015 was completed this summer.

General contractor: Lennar Northwest Inc., Rotschy Inc. (sitework)
Project owner: Lennar Northwest Inc.

Lacamas PrairieLacamas Prairie 2. Lacamas Prairie Estates, Vancouver
Construction cost: $34,000,000

This property is roughly 80 acres developed into 176 lots for single-family homes. Project development included storm water detention facilities, new streets, underground utilities, trails and landscaped areas. The project broke ground in September 2015 was completed this summer.

General contractor: Lennar Northwest Inc., Rotschy Inc. (sitework)
Project owner: Lennar Northwest Inc.

Alder PointeAlder Pointe Apartments, Battle Ground

Alder Pointe Apartments is a 180-unit development located in Battle Ground. The complex contains three-story buildings with 24 units each; two-story buildings with garages below second-floor apartments; and dedicated garage buildings. Residents have access to a central clubhouse housing a community room, a meeting room, a fitness center and an outdoor pool. The buildings are separated by ample landscaped areas with walking paths and a play structure to provide a park-like setting for residents.

General contractor: TEAM Construction LLC
Project owner: Principal Properties LLC

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.

On Tuesday, October 18, the Vancouver Business Journal’s 2016 Healthiest Companies of Southwest Washington Awards Reception and Showcase took place at Warehouse ’23, in partnership with Clark County Public Health.

Thirteen local companies and two nonprofit/public sector organizations were recognized at the event for their commitment to employee wellness.

Award recipients, and the categories they were recognized in, included the following companies:

Healthiest Company – Private Sector/Nonprofit
The Fort Vancouver Regional Library

With a more than 60 percent participation rate in their wellness program, the Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL) takes advantage of incentives offered by its insurance provider – Kaiser Permanente – to maximize their healthy employee impact.

FVRL’s formal wellness committee meets at least quarterly to organize promotions, programs, print and electronic communication that engages and encourages the entire team from Woodland to Vancouver and Washougal to Goldendale. Committee members also man a ‘Wellness Table’ at their annual Employee Benefits Fair to share and educate attendees on the many healthy incentives and opportunities available and on-site flu shots are offered throughout the day.

A monthly birthday/anniversary potluck located at the FVRL headquarters is another opportunity to focus on healthy food options instead of the traditional sugar-laden buffet selection of the past.

Both sedentary and active jobs can be found within the organization so FVRL is committed to supplementing annual gym members for its staff; their HQ provides on-site yoga classes during lunch hours; and a work out area can be found there, as well.

Through Kaiser, FVRL participates in their Healthy Trails initiative which encourages employees to set physical fitness and nutritional goals as a team or individual and earn weekly prizes along the four to six week journey. All participants are awarded one hour of paid leave to use during the remainder of the year.

Finalist in this category: Clark County Food Bank

Healthiest Company – Small Employer
Lacamas Counseling

Through a comprehensive, point-by-point vision plan, Vancouver’s Lacamas Counseling enjoys 100 percent employee participation in their wellness program.

Truly drawing from their strengths as cognitive and emotional professionals, the team uses these assets for in-house health as well as the health of their patients.

They foster an environment of emotional, physical, interpersonal and vocational health. The office space is geared toward movement through standing desks, group walks during breaks, peer accountability with fitness and exercise and an emphasis on involving family members to be a part of the process.

Lacamas encourages meal preparation and healthy eating by providing a lunch room and kitchen in an effort to reduce dependency on fast food meals.

There are also team-building activities and an annual camping trip in August that emphasizes a culture of adventure.

Supporting one another professionally is encouraged through brainstorming sessions regarding cross-training opportunities, attendance at professional events and networking as a group.

Even aesthetics are taken into consideration as a way to uplift employee morale. Lacamas takes great care in providing a clean office environment with ample windows for natural light that is particularly important during the darker, longer days of winter.

Finalists in this category: Northwest Personal Training; Sweet Spot Skirts

Healthiest Company – Mid-sized Employer (TIE)
Dynamic EventsDynamic Events

Dynamic’s unofficial motto is “There’s no such thing as work/life balance; there’s just this one life, and we just happen to live some of it here in our office.”

A myriad of enviable benefits support healthy living at this professionally-focused event planning organization. Three one-hour professional fitness training sessions and one one-hour yoga session are offered each week in their on-site gym. These occur during business hours so that fitness time doesn’t interfere with outside social and personal time. Quarterly health assessments are also conducted for all participants by the fitness trainers. A fully-stocked kitchen complete with healthful foods and beverages; two on-site napping pods and a wetlands walking trail are also provided.

Dynamic Events believes that recreation can only happen through an appropriate amount of down time. As a result, a minimum two-week vacation policy over and above their offices being closed for the week of Thanksgiving and two weeks during the December holidays means five weeks of paid time off each year.

The first $500 that employees deposit into their Flexible Spending Account is matched by the company and remote employees are given $300 per year for exercise options in lieu of on-site training.

Other incentives include Fitbits to monitor activity while at work-related conferences; $35 per month of “morale money” to use toward a team building activity and annual event participation in things like whitewater rafting and Warrior Dash competitions.

As a result of employee input in Dynamic’s workplace wellness program, more yoga classes will be added in 2017. The company believes happy employees that feel valued as a result of real investments into their health pay dividends in a strong morale and company loyalty.

LSW ArchitectsLSW Architects

LSW values – giving back, service, family, relationship, community, impact, growth, creativity, leadership and gratefulness/gratitude – are at the core of who this Vancouver-based architectural firm is, and supported by their comprehensive wellness program.

Flexible schedules including modified hours and work-from-home options support family time, which LSW sees as a priority. Employee medical and dental insurance is paid 100 percent by LSW, 50 percent is paid for spouse and children and routine preventative exams and tests for employees are complimentary. Additional insurance coverage is available for injury or long-term illness for a fee.

Fiscal health is cultivated through a 401k matching program.

To promote nutritional health, snacks like fruits and veggies, hummus, whole wheat and rice crackers, rice cakes, popcorn, snap pea crisps and string cheese are supplied for the staff in the office.

Physical activity is encouraged at LSW through a host of creative programs including their “Move Your Feet” campaign launched last winter. As of this fall, 19 staff members had been reimbursed up to $100 for a pair of athletic shoes after purchasing them and posting a review of how they were used on LSW’s Instagram feed. In phases, sit-to-stand desks replaced fixed height desks to where now all office desks have this feature which promotes better ergonomics and a more engaged workgroup.

A shower facility encourages physical activity like running, rock climbing and boot camp classes during lunch, and indoor bike racks facilitate biking to work. Employees also participate in office hikes, half marathons and an annual white water rafting trip.

LSW sees sustainability as a valuable component of overall company health and, through a Green Team, are looking at ways to improve energy consumption, water usage, stormwater runoff and to improve their recycling program.

Finalists in this category: Mill Creek Pub; Opsahl Dawson

Healthiest Company – Large Employer (TIE)

Forward Living is a wellness program created by this electronic contract manufacturing company with their employees in mind. Features include a full health risk assessment, individual health consultation services, health coaching, regular wellness committee meetings and annual biometric screenings.

Stacey Smith, vice president of human resources and marketing, explained that ControlTek focuses on high-touch activities as opposed to web-based resources. Classes are then followed up with an activity to apply what staff has learned.

Employees receive a bingo card and, for each square completed, they’re eligible to draw a gift card or other motivational incentive. Squares consist of simple steps toward wellness like ‘Eat 4 Fruits and Veggies a Day for 14 Days,’ ‘Visit the Eye Doctor,’ ‘Avoid Sugary Drinks’ or ‘Use No Electronics During Dinner.’

Smith said, “It’s usually the little tiny things that people can add, one on top of another, that significantly impacts health and wellness.”

Boasting an 85 percent participation rate, Forward Living is a results-based program that monitors blood pressure, glucose levels, cholesterol and other biometric factors, and the program is paying off. Negative risk factors in all tracked categories have continued to decline for participating staff across the board going into the program’s fifth year.

Nautilus, Inc.

Appropriately entitled Road to Wellness, Nautilus sees wellness “as a lifelong journey that involves mind, body, nutrition and personal financial actions.” Stamps are earned for actions like preventative annual exams and flu shots/vaccines; increasing a 401(k) contribution; completing a financial planning course; engaging in family fitness activities like coaching a youth sports team, having a child participate in a sport and/or participating in outdoor activities as a family; donating blood; and participating in Meals on Wheels and other volunteer activities.

Employees are encouraged to participate in the many company-sponsored events such as the American Lung Association Fight for Air Stair Climb, American Heart Association Heart Walk, Reach the Beach Bike Ride, Hood to Coast and Nautilus softball and kickball teams.

Complimentary access to the company’s fitness center is offered to all employees (and their immediate family) as well as equipment purchases at deep discounts to promote wellness at home.

In 2015, Nautilus saw a 25 percent increase in employee Road to Wellness participation and 44 percent earning a ‘black out’ in their stamped card. Through September of 2016, 218 employees logged over 18,933 workouts.

The company’s commitment to providing a healthy lifestyle for their employees as well as their customers is paying off. For the third year in a row, medical claims have decreased, which has been a key factor in keeping medical premiums at 2013 rates.

Finalists in this category: Banfield Pet Hospital; Wafertech

Healthiest Company – Headquartered outside of Southwest Washington
Perkins & Co.

As an accounting firm, sitting for long hours can be a particular hazard from January through May. To combat this, Perkins’ award-winning wellness committee established the “Busy Season Wellness Challenge.” Employees are encouraged to form teams of six and earn one point for every one minute of exercise. Weekly in-house yoga and Barre3 classes are offered, team members train for local runs together, plan weekend bike outings and tackle the high-rise stairs provided in the office during the work day. The results from the 2016 tax season were 235,192 minutes of exercise clocked by more than 50 percent of the staff.

Dry months see the switch to the Summer of Fun Bingo Challenge, meditation classes, recipe competitions and plenty of locally-sourced produce. Perkins staff are the recipients of community-supported agriculture via the Our Table Co-Op, which provides a weekly delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables directly to registered offices.

Other company benefits include flexible work schedules including telecommuting options, bi-weekly massage therapists, standing workstations, a company quiet room for rest and rejuvenation, health-focused company-paid meals during the busy season and financial sessions throughout the year.

Finalist in this category: Miller Nash Graham & Dunn

Accomplished & Under 40

2016 AU40 class

Our look back at the year in business would not be complete without recognizing the Vancouver Business Journal’s Accomplished & Under 40 Class of 2016. 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:

  • Chandra Chase, Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce
  • David Cone, Northwest Custom Electric
  • Tyson Fuehrer, Biggs Insurance
  • Erica Gehlen, StarCycle
  • Melanie Green, Evergreen Public Schools
  • Jill Karmy, Karmy Law Office PLLC
  • Catherine Kroll, PeaceHealth SW Washington Medical Center
  • Marcus Logan, Teach One to Lead One
  • Dennis Malin, Empire Hospitality
  • Christopher Magana, IMS Capital Management, Inc.
  • Daniel Rogers, Clark College Foundation
  • Lindsey Salvestrin, Columbia Credit Union
  • Matt Schoolfield, Toast Inc.
  • Paige Spratt, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt
  • Kristina Walsh-Daarud, LSW Architects
  • Joe Yoder, Legacy Health Salmon Creek Medical Center

The class of 2016 was recognized during a luncheon on November 1 at Warehouse ‘23.