Time to reflect on a busy year in Southwest Washington

Clark County’s business community has much to be proud of as 2015 winds down – and 2016 begins

Todd Coleman

The end of the year is a natural time to reflect on all you’ve experienced and achieved over the past 12 months and look forward to the possibilities of a new year. Clark County’s business community has a lot to be proud of in 2015. We have some of the fastest growing, most innovative companies in the region, including those receiving Best in Business awards this year, and we’ve added more than 6,000 jobs between January and November.

Trade, transportation and utilities saw some of the biggest gains this year, and we’re certainly seeing some of that productivity and growth at the Port of Vancouver USA. As of the end of November, overall tonnage is up 5 percent from 2014, including growth in automobiles, minerals, paper pulp, steel and grains.

More Subarus are arriving at the Port of Vancouver and more soybeans are shipping out, but what does it really mean? To help bring port activity into focus, we just received a report on our regional and local economic impact. The numbers are striking: Activity at the port supports more than 20,200 jobs – including 3,237 direct jobs – and brings $2.9 billion in economic value to our region. That’s an increase of 900 jobs and $1.3 billion in economic value since the last economic impact study we commissioned in 2010. Additionally, growth of non-marine tenants (port businesses that do not rely on shipping) and maritime activity at the port spurred a $42.9 million increase in direct personal salary income since 2010.

Much of this growth is related to infrastructure improvements at the port, from our $275 million West Vancouver Freight Access project to shovel-ready light-industrial property at Centennial Industrial Park and upgrades to industrial and marine facilities. But none of it could have been accomplished without the hard work of thousands of employees, hundreds of businesses and partners, and the taxpayer investment that allows the port to be a hub of economic activity in Clark County and the region. We can’t do it alone; it takes everyone working with a shared commitment and vision to build our community up, regardless of challenges and disagreements that may arise.

We have more investment and some exciting initiatives planned for the coming year, including more rail improvements to continue increasing efficient movement of products through the port, significant upgrades to marine facilities, and construction of a 100,000 square-foot industrial building at our Centennial Industrial Park.

We’re also diving into the revitalization of Terminal One, our birthplace on the Columbia River at the former Red Lion hotel building. In November we welcomed AbSci LLC, a rapidly growing biotech firm, as our first new tenant at the historic site. We’ll renovate a portion of the hotel into the first dedicated life sciences technology lab space in Southwest Washington – to be called the Columbia River Life Sciences Technology Building – providing AbSci the flexibility to expand and greatly increasing the region’s ability to attract additional companies in this sector.

There’s a lot on the horizon for Clark County and Southwest Washington. We’re very proud to be a part of the business community, helping keep families and neighbors working and commerce flowing through our region. We all have much to be proud of, and a lot of possibilities to look forward to in 2016.

Todd Coleman is CEO of the Port of Vancouver.