Real estate development starts with a clear vision that helps define a community and draw investment. A great deal of work goes into a development project before a shovel even hits the ground, and while we cannot foresee what businesses are going to locate in our community, we can apply our vision to strategically plan for and market our infrastructure and amenities to attract certain business.
This year the U.S. industrial vacancy reached 5.3 percent (the lowest in 17 years), driving investors to continue to find value in the manufacturing and industrial sectors and opening multiple smaller locations to be close to their supply chain, consumers and a talented workforce. These manufacturers can find what they need here in Clark County – a well-capitalized community with available acreage within the Portland metropolitan area. As Portland’s downtown continues to boom, drawing in tech and software companies, it’s helping us attract commercial users as well as the R&D and manufacturing arms of these businesses.
Advanced manufacturers are typically high-tech, clean industries that pay a living wage. They use technology to turn raw materials into products that are used by individuals and companies around the world. When these technologies change, so do their site needs, and to remain competitive we need to develop properties that incorporate required technologies of the future.
When companies look to relocate or expand, they typically approach decisions with a triple bottom line (TBL) framework. This methodology incorporates environmental, social and economic aspects in decision-making.
Environmental: Environmental stewardship and real estate development can co-exist, and it’s important to choose business partners that are committed to preserving natural spaces and managing resources wisely. Companies are attracted by eco-industrial planning and development that meet or exceed regulatory requirements. These types of developments make our community healthier and more appealing overall, and they’re here to stay.
Social: Workforce is always at the top of the list for businesses. As manufacturing technology has changed, so have the requirements of a skilled workforce. Companies are looking at programs in K-12, community colleges, tech schools and workforce development associations. They’re asking how many students graduating from these programs remain in our community, so they can understand our quality of life, which helps them attract and retain skilled workers. Creating a sense of place is also important to a business and a community. As Vancouver builds out its waterfront and creates an urban environment and culture to set itself apart from other areas in the region, it will continue to attract businesses and workers who want to live, work and play here.
Economic: While rates and incentives always play a role in a negotiation, they’re not leading the decision process today. Environmental and social responsibilities are playing a big role in how companies define their financial bottom line and plan for the whole lifecycle of a project. By designing facilities with the TBL framework in mind, companies are automatically reducing costs and retaining workers. Clark County provides access to low-cost utilities and alternative energy sources; efficient trade routes; world-class infrastructure and a workforce ready to engage in tomorrow’s economies. These amenities translate to lower overhead costs, less space and costs in warehousing, and cost-effective, on-time project delivery. Concerns about another economic recession make companies very tentative to overbuild, so they’re placing a good deal of emphasis on the ability to build for today and expand in the same location for the future.
An understanding of how our assets line up with businesses’ TBL approach and a balanced vision in real estate development provides a wealth of opportunities for Clark County businesses to expand and puts us at the forefront for new business recruitment.
Chrissy Lyons is the commercial and industrial sales manager for the Port of Vancouver USA. Every day, she works to retain and expand current customers and recruit new business to the port and our region. Lyons also serves on the Board of Southwest Washington Contractors Association.