5 Notable Things about Economy in October

Running out of steam?  Our first note is the US economic expansion continued this past summer, but only at a 1.5% increase according to a report released by the BEA last week.  Down sharply from 3.9 % growth this past spring.

Second note is Congress did extend the debt ceiling as the month closed out.  This prevents another standoff between the White House and the Congress, and gives the government and additional 80 billion dollars to play with ( ooops – sorry) to be able to borrow and keep the government working.   For the most part both sides of the aisle said it was a bad deal, but necessary to keep the government operating effectively.

Third note another month where the FED did not raise interest rates.  After almost ten years,  eight of which  included speculation that an interest rate rise was right on the horizon the Fed Open Market Committee said a 0 to .25 funds rate seems appropriate . See our first note as to why they may have kicked the can again.  This policy hurts the elderly, the retired, non profits who want to generate income with safety.  Don’t be surprised if it continues through the end of the year, and then doesn’t go anywhere very fast. Fed

Fourth note new home sales really fell off the cliff in September dropping 11.5 per cent.  This could be from low inventories, or it could be traced back to first note again.  Home prices have generally been climbing about 4 per cent in value over the past couple years.

Fifth note, Office building construction totaled $44.9 billion for the 12 months ending in August up 27.4% from one year ago.  Office vacancy is declining and rents are rising.  Expect this growth to peak in late 2015 and slow as we move into 2016.  Commercial Real Estate industry expects another solid year in 2016.

Vision Translated to Reality


My big chance for a question to the panel

The Columbia River Economic Development Council held their final  quarterly luncheon of 2014 at the Heathman Lodge Monday January 15th.   The topic was how strategic planning is vitally important to creating a vital economic future.

This is topic is important because the effects of the 2008 Great Recession set our economic development base back about four years, and brought economic hardship on a wide range of Clark County residents.  The panelists presented examples of recent planning efforts that have born great fruit, or were started  well before those economic hard times and will provide a foundation to surge us forward.

The panel was moderated by John White recently retired from Berger Abam, who built his career around cajoling  public agencies to peer into the future to create a vision and a work plan to get there.

Todd Coleman of the Port of Vancouver shared thoughts on how in 2005 the Port realized they needed to revamp their rail access to ensure they were able to  compete in the global economy.  Chad Eiken of the City of Vancouver took us back through the foundational stages of Esther Short Park’s  rebirth and how that has led over roughly  thirty years to the commencement  of the Water Front project that will finally rise in 2015.

Scott Higgins Mayor of  Camas spoke of a 35 year effort to diversify Camas’s economic base away from a single industry – paper to more modern high tech employers. Steve Stuart reminded us how we all literally stand on the shoulders of predecessors who were willing to take the time to envision an ever brighter future.  In the case of Ridgefield, an old mill that manufactured railroad ties left a legacy of pollution and creosote that was  barrier to the city being able to access it’s own water front. A twenty year effort by the Port of Ridgefield and many partners has cleaned up that “disaster” and laid a new foundation for a new hub of residential and retail activity that will be a magnet for growth.

Todd Coleman sharing how the Port envisioned  2015 in 2005.

Todd Coleman sharing how the Port envisioned 2015 in 2005.

My 5 biggest takeaways:

1. Economic development is a team sport – it takes many agencies working together.

2. Government agencies are best at laying the foundation – the private sector then brings the capital and the jobs.

3.  While there is competition – success is usually maximized with cooperation :an example Clark Regional Wastewater District and Ridgefield working together with Clark County to increase sewer capacity

4. Significant additional work needs to be done to get parcels of  land prepared for use. There are companies every month who don’t locate here because we are not ready.

5. Watch for the Port of Vancouver to play an even larger role in partnering with several other agencies – particularly Clark  County to find a solution to revitalizing the railroad lines through the heart of the county.

I would describe the feeling in the room as quite upbeat, with expectations for 2015 being very positive.



Podiatrists gain foothold at Pacific Crest

Pac_cestIn 2008 Drs. Ellen Wenzel and Zarko   Kajgana  made a decision to locate their Podiatric practice here in Clark County.  Both had completed their training and residency, having matriculated from Scholl College of Podiatry at Rosalind Franklin University in 2007  and been Board certified by the American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and Primary Podiatric Medicine.

They set up “shop” out along Mill Plain Boulevard near 131st street and started contacting and taking referrals from other physicians.   Almost five years later they have grown the practice to the point where they could complete the purchase of their own building.

Congratulations are in order as in October the pair purchased Suite 240 at the Pacific Crest Center, located at 601 SE 117th Ave in East Vancouver, adjacent to the Cinetopia Theater.  There they join other professional as Dr.  David Vursheryn, Rebound Orthopedics.

Check out their website at Ankle and Foot Physicians and Surgeons





VDA- Property Owners Summit

866902_downtown_summit_046_t770Vancouver’s Downtown Association is again stepping to the forefront to inspire another surge of activity to the ongoing momentum created over the past three years.

Lee Rafferty welcomed VDA members and property owners to a “Downtown Property Owner Summit” this past Thursday at the Brickstone Ballroom.

The focus of the Summit was to bring Michelle Reeves back for a review and refresh of the principles she outlined for us three years ago to step by step build a vibrant downtown.

Michelle, who’s company is known as Civillis Consultants, took us on a tour of buildings and neighborhoods in both Portland and Vancouver where property owners had implemented her principles and had achieved dramatic improvements in both property appeal , but more importantly to Landlords – property values.

The exciting part is many of the principles are simple , often relatively inexpensive. Lets share three of the basics:

“Your sidewalks are a stage, a place to tell the story of your community,”  Reeves told more than 60 attendees of the three-hour downtown summit. And a key platform toward telling a story of city center vibrancy and engagement. Business owners who engage their customer out on the sidewalk through merchandise displays, outdoor seating, colorful exteriors of buildings are much more attractive and welcoming. People will be drawn to come see what you are about.

Large windows are a second principle and most valuable for retailers. Let the outside light in and let potential customers see your merchandise. Again if you make it easy to determine what you are about, you raise the odds they’ll come in .

A third principle is lighting.  Both from having an open and well lit entrance, taking advantage of natural light and not covered by large awnings.  This extends to giving strong consideration to the type of lighting and signage you have in the evenings.

Analyzing your building through the lens of extending the “engagement platform” well onto the sidewalk and even across the street will lead to an entire new set of questions as property owners seek tenants.

Walking up and down Main Street, Washington Street , Columbia and in Uptown you can see how Landlords and Tenants have been applying the principles.  The number of outdoor seating areas has increased significantly over the past two years, the palette of colors has broadened and includes several new mural walls.  The result is many thriving shops and operators, a number of whom are starting up second locations.

We’ll do a follow up post shortly on several other key points Michelle brought forward and some examples of how they are being successfully applied right here in our own downtown.