As the Hilton Vancouver Washington moves into its tenth year of operation, we are witnessing firsthand the downtown transformation envisioned by community leaders.
Through its 200 year history as regional host of commerce and community, Vancouver USA has experienced constant change. Fur trading and timber; ship and plane making; war preparations; aluminum, chips and technology; knowledge, ideas and services.
Along the way, hard-working and courageous leaders paved the way for change. About 20 years ago, a new transformation was ignited by citizens, elected officials and businesspeople working cooperatively.
They revitalized Esther Short Park; built office buildings, condominiums and retail space; landed a convention center and hotel; created art displays; modernized historic assets such as the historic Fort Vancouver, iconic Kiggins movie house, and now the Mother Joseph Academy complex.
The result? Vancouver USA is gaining a new sense of vibrancy, with events and activities seemingly every day – from concerts to conventions, marathons and farmers markets.
The momentum continues. Now, we are seeing residential development spring up in downtown. We have new coffee shops, retail stores, restaurants and places for a glass of locally-brewed beer or locally-crushed wine. Our city government is housed in a state-of-the-art building while its former buildings are rapidly being remodeled and will be home to new businesses and organizations. Clark College continues to expand its facilities and programs as our need for a trained workforce evolves. We are welcoming startup companies and technology companies with our innovation zone designation, and are rolling out blazing fast internet service.
We’re seeing the beginnings of a waterfront development that will support more businesses, residents and guests. Before the roads, bike paths, docks and parks are even staked out, we’ve already landed a riverboat cruise that will bring thousands of pedestrian-guests into our community.
As the downtown revitalization continues and the economy continues to improve, one would expect another significant hotel to be constructed someday. We welcome it. Another hotel would make it possible to host even larger conventions and events in Vancouver while welcoming even greater numbers of overnight guests for business and pleasure.
All of this exciting activity is happening in a community that has a long history of commerce thanks to our proximity to a powerful river, a rail and freight system, a confluence of highways and interstates along a vital interstate corridor, and a talented workforce. It’s no wonder we have thousands of unique jobs associated with moving freight, building ships, creating iron structures and processing food.
As we look forward, many in our community are engaged in discussion about future projects that promise to generate jobs and support our economy while protecting our citizens and nature. The discussion is healthy. I am confident that our well-intentioned leaders will continue to arrive at good decisions that balance all needs.
While controversy often dominates the headlines, I encourage people to take a step back from time to time and reflect upon the quality of our vibrant community. The feedback we hear every day from visitors and guests reminds us that we are privileged to live and work in a great place, and it’s getting better every day.
Eric Walters is the general manager at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.