When Jeff Shafer moved Agave Jeans Co. to Clark County, he had a tall order to fill.
Agave’s designer and chief executive officer moved his family from the Los Angeles area to Clark County for a change of pace in 2006. With the move, Shafer sought to consolidate his designer apparel company’s operations in an environmentally-friendly building that reflected the Agave brand.
He needed to develop local partners for the venture. And they had to find or build the right facility in about 18 months, because of a leasing agreement at the company’s LA warehouse.
After making key connections in the local business community, Shafer pulled it off, relocating the $10 million company in a custom-designed Ridgefield facility in December.
He collaborated with Vancouver-based RSV Construction Services Inc., NAI Norris Beggs and Simpson, Vancouver-based Regents Bank, the Columbia River Economic Development Council and the city of Ridgefield to select land and obtain financing for, purchase, plan and build the headquarters.
Preparing a place
Shafer tried leasing local space, but said he didn’t have suitable options in Clark County.
“I hired three sets of Realtors to do the search and they all came back with goose eggs,” Shafer said. “East Portland was so excited about growing that the cost differences meant most new companies in manufacturing or distribution were going to Oregon.”
But on top of the commute, an Oregon location could have cost 15 percent more in taxes, he said.
Shafer decided to build new, and a real estate agent connected him with Ron Frederiksen, president and CEO of RSV.
As a former CREDC chair, Frederiksen had economic development in mind and was prepared to walk Agave through the process.
“I said I would bring the team together,” Frederiksen said. “I called (CREDC President Bart) Phillips and said I had a project bringing 14 jobs to the area, that Ridgefield was the jurisdiction and that we had to go like the wind.”
After scouting out industrial land, Shafer chose a multi-acre parcel in Ridgefield that was approved for construction. Within a week Shafer had financing from Regence Bank to buy two acres for $1.3 million.
A month later, Shafer and RSV were in pre-application meetings with the city of Ridgefield, where city staff agreed to work on an accelerated timeline.
“Communication was key and RSV had a plan,” said Ridgefield City Manager Justin Clary. “It was a standard plan review process because the right team was on board and they know commercial development.”
Meanwhile, Agave and RSV leaders collaborated with designers to create a $1.8 million building that maximized energy efficiency, creativity and communication among workers.
With the Agave logo perched on a pre-engineered steel building, Shafer calls the facility “an extension of the brand.”
Its design incorporates high ceilings, skylights, expansive windows, hardwood floors and energy-efficient insulation and heating and cooling systems.
Overlooking the a wildlife preserve, the 22,000-square-foot building includes a 16,000-square-foot warehouse and shipping center, 4,000 square feet for offices and the retail outlet and 2,200 square feet for the design studio and executive office.
The new building means the 7-year-old company’s 10 local employees are no longer scattered in Vancouver offices, its distribution is no longer outsourced and its first retail outlet will have a place to open this spring. Agave’s manufacturing plant and customer service office remain in LA.
“It’s been tremendous for our brand,” Shafer said. “All of a sudden we’re not just an Internet and telephone company. All of a sudden we have a basis and a building. And it’s a beautiful building.”
For Ridgefield, a fast-growing town with 4,115 residents, Agave’s move means a more diversified economy with potential for new jobs, a population with a broader salary range and more out-of-town business.
“(Agave) brings some excitement to what’s going on out there,” Clary said. “This is a vibrant and very hip company that is hopefully reflective of what Ridgefield is becoming.”
Shafer worked with CREDC and the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council to hire about five new positions, and hopes to hire one or two more.
“What (Agave) is doing is traded sector,” Phillips said. “Every dollar they bring in to the community is from someplace else. The more diversity you can get in industry and size, the more stable it’s going to be.”
Timeline for Agave construction
October 2007: Initial discussion of establishing Clark County headquarters
November 2007: Purchase and sale agreement signed
December 2007: Preapplication conference with the city of Ridgefield
March 2008: Building permits submitted
July 2008: Construction begins
Dec. 15, 2008: Agave occupies the new building
Charity Thompson can be reached at email@example.com.