Fisher Investments puts down deeper roots in Camas

Employees move in to first of four planned buildings

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

Updated: December 27, 2011, 4:19 PM

 
photoKen Fisher is founder, chairman and CEO of Fisher Investments

From the outside, Fisher Investments’ new office building in Camas looks like the same ubiquitous brick-and-glass box found on corporate campuses from Seattle to San Francisco.

From inside, however, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook hills and evergreens that stretch to the horizon, a view that sets the California-based financial firm’s $30 million Clark County building apart from generic corporate America. The first of four structures planned for Fisher’s 120-acre Camas site opened its doors in late November north of Pacific Rim Boulevard and east of Southeast 192nd Avenue. Already, about 400 employees now share the view. And they could soon have company next door.

Ken Fisher, founder, chairman and CEO of the $41 billion investment and asset management company, is making plans for a second building. But he won’t say what local business leaders have waited years to hear — that the Camas site will become his company’s headquarters.

While a December fog shrouds trees outside, real-time stock-market graphs light up rows of computer screens placed in front of each headphone-wearing employee in the new building, bringing New York’s financial district to Camas.

To Fisher, it’s less about the view his workers look out on, and more about the location with the best outlook for his business.

He has long called California the “most hostile business climate in the country” for its high-priced housing, corporate taxes and state income tax. Fisher Investments’ employees earn, on average, between $75,000 and $200,000 a year; in that salary bracket, they face a 9.3 percent income tax in California. Keeping their taxes low is a priority for the company’s owner. Washington is one of three states without a state income tax.

Attractive location

Fisher has listed Camas’ affordable housing, its schools and proximity to Portland International Airport as key attractions that drew him to Clark County.

In 2008, he and his wife, Sherri, purchased a four-bedroom home in the Columbia Summit Estates subdivision in Camas. Since then, the company has offered relocation financing to some key employees.

“They’re bringing in new residents who are choosing to live in Camas, put their kids in Camas schools and buy groceries in Camas,” said Scott Higgins, the city’s mayor.

Fisher expects to eventually accommodate 450 workers in the newly completed building. Employees just started reporting to the building last month, at 5525 N.W. Fisher Creek Drive.

The name is a coincidence; a nearby land basin and stream were called Fisher Creek long before Ken Fisher’s 2006 announcement that his firm would open a temporary office in east Vancouver.

That office, in Vancouver’s Columbia Tech Center development, housed about 350 employees who now report to the Camas building.

Meanwhile, Fisher Investments has still not settled on a new world headquarters site outside of California.

Fisher founded the firm in 1973 in the San Francisco suburb of Woodside, Calif. It manages assets for individual investors, small businesses and institutional clients.

Most of the company’s 1,200 workers report to a main operation center in San Mateo, Calif., near Woodside. But that’s about to change, according to Fisher, who expects the majority of his employees to work in Camas after his company’s second five-story building is completed.

“Moving slower there,” Fisher said in a recent email response to questions about progress on the second building. “It will handle more than 450 (employees). Maybe 600.”

So far, very little construction work has been done on the project. However, Camas building officials say the project’s general contractor, Howard S. Wright Constructors, has secured building permits.

Fisher said no timeline has been set for work on Fisher Investments’ third and fourth Camas buildings, a one-story and a two-story structure.

Cami Joner: 360-735-4532; cami.joner@columbian.com.