While national economists predict this year’s slow business growth to continue well into next year, a handful of Clark County companies are expanding ahead of schedule. Many are hitting double-digit revenue growth this year and expect to continue or exceed those growth rates in 2011.
Those rising profits haven’t necessarily translated into new jobs this year. Business owners are reluctant to expand while uncertainty over the pace of economic recovery lingers.
“Companies are investing for the next round of growth,” said Bart Phillips, chief executive officer of the Columbia River Economic Development Council. “They’re making a number of investments that will lead to hiring. That bodes well for the future.”
Karcher North America, for example, has seen increased orders this year as cities and other municipalities began buying equipment again, said Bob Christian, vice president of sales for Landa, a Karcher subsidiary, in Camas. As a result, Karcher’s revenues climbed by 10 percent to 12 percent across all divisions, he said.
Karcher declined to provide its total employment but said it has also increased its work force by 10 percent here but not enough to completely meet the increased demand, Christian said. Instead, employees at the company’s Camas plant have been working Saturdays and longer shifts all year to keep up with demand. More hiring could come if sales continue to grow, he said.
Similarly, Vancouver-based Columbia Ultimate has added to its staff this year but only moderately, said President and CEO Fred Houston. The company, which sells software for debt collectors, has seen a 10 percent revenue growth rate this year but not because its market is doing well, Houston said. While the demand for debt collection is booming, fewer debtors can afford to pay up.
“What has helped us tremendously is that our major competitors have had a lot of challenges,” Houston said. “A lot of people are jumping ship from competitors to come to us.”
Columbia Ultimate expects to add 20 employees to its staff next year, as the market improves. Until then, it’s investing in new products, Houston said.
“Even with our growth, we’ve had to work smarter and take better advantage of our technologies,” Houston said. “We’ve gone through the same (hardships) everyone else has, but we’ve been better able to adapt to changing market conditions.”
The Columbian found 10 growing Clark County companies that have been hiring at a moderate to rapid pace this year. All expect to see continued improvements in their businesses next year, with more hiring to come. Most belong to the technology industry — one of the few bright spots in the local economy — but some have done better than their markets and grown despite adversity.
Ten growing Clark County companies
CEO: John Konsin.
Address: 14401 S.E. First St., Vancouver.
Hired since January: 26.
Revenue growth: N/A.
Reason for growth: New supply contracts.
Industry: Medical research and manufacturing.
Wacom Technology Corp.
President: Joe Deal.
Address: 1311 S.E. Cardinal Court, Vancouver.
Hired since January: 22.
Revenue growth: 25 percent.
Reason for growth: New consumer product line.
Industry: Electronics, makes pen and touch tablets.
Founder: Randy Kohltfarber.
Address: 14300 S.E. First St., Vancouver.
Hired since January: 14.
Revenue growth: 25 percent.
Reason for growth: Improved 3-D animation technology.
Industry: Safety training software.
Karcher North America
CEO: Elliot Younessian.
Address: 4275 N.W. Pacific Rim Blvd., Camas.
Employees, hired since January: The company declined to provide these numbers but said it has increased its head count by 10 percent since January.
Revenue growth: 10 percent to 12 percent.
Reason for growth: Increased government spending on equipment.
Industry: Equipment manufacturer, makes commercial pressure washers.
Safetec Compliance Systems
Founder-COO: Duane Burkett.
Address: 7700 N.E. Parkway Drive, Vancouver.
Hired since January: 8.
Annual revenue growth: 40 percent.
Reason for growth: Annual federal reporting requirements.
Industry: Chemical compliance software.
CEO: Fred Houston.
Address: 4400 N.E 77th Ave., Vancouver.
Hired since January: 10.
Revenue growth: N/A.
Reason for growth: New subscription package, company stability and reputation.
Industry: Debt collection software.
CEO: Ken Hood.
Address: 501 S.E. Columbia Shores Blvd., Vancouver.
Hired since January: 16.
Revenue growth: 50 percent.
Reason for growth: Addition of several large customers.
Industry: Telecommunications, sells software for managing wireless home networks.
CEO: Lothar Maier.
Address: 4200 N.W. Pacific Rim Blvd., Camas.
Hired since January: 50.
Revenue growth: 65 percent.
Reason for growth: Strong global computer chip sales.
Industry: Semiconductors, makes chips used in commercial markets.
CEO: Ryan Moor.
Address: 11800 N.E. 60th Way, Vancouver.
Hired since January: 13.
Revenue growth: 37 percent.
Reason for growth: Customer loyalty and retention.
Industry: Silk-screening equipment supplier.
CEO: Kirk Brown.
Address: 3312 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.
Hired since January: 27.
Revenue growth: 300+ percent.
Reason for growth: Strong sales to technology firms.
Industry: Professional services and data management.