PeaceHealth moving HQ to Columbia Tech Center

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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Southwest and PeaceHealth kicked off merger negotiations in March 2010. In December 2010, the two nonprofits announced that they had reached a final agreement. The merger created a nonprofit health care company with roughly 15,000 employees, eight hospitals and nearly $2 billion in revenues.

PeaceHealth confirmed Monday it will move its headquarters to the same east Vancouver site that houses Nautilus, Inc. and that will soon be home to Hewlett-Packard Co.

PeaceHealth, the new corporate parent of Southwest Washington Medical Center, chose Columbia Center at Columbia Tech Center, 1115 S.E. 164th Ave., over the 10-story Bank of America Financial Center at 805 Broadway in downtown Vancouver.

Alan Yordy, president and chief mission officer for PeaceHealth, said both locations would have met the nonprofit’s space needs. However, PeaceHealth employees who will relocate to Vancouver were invited to visit both sites, Yordy said, and their recommendation “heavily favored” Columbia Center.

Catholic-sponsored PeaceHealth’s selection of a headquarters site builds on its burgeoning relationship with Vancouver. It completed an agreement to merge with Southwest in December 2010.

“We make long-term commitments,” Yordy said. “We aren’t taking this lightly at all. We expect (Columbia Center) to be a center for us for the foreseeable future, and the partnership with Southwest ... is really the capstone.”

News of PeaceHealth’s decision to move its headquarters in Bellevue to a suburban spot in Vancouver rather than the city’s core came as a disappointment to downtown advocates — although they welcomed the nonprofit’s move to the city.

“Of course, we’re disappointed,” said Lee Rafferty, executive director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. “But we’re excited that PeaceHealth is going to be part of our city as a whole and we really believe their employees will soon fall in love with our downtown.”

More jobs, new space

PeaceHealth’s move to a portion of the 478,000-square-foot Columbia Center also will bring 127 more new jobs than initially thought. Early on, the plan was to relocate about 340 workers from other PeaceHealth locations to a new Vancouver site.

The revised plan — based on a closer look by PeaceHealth at its staffing needs — will relocate 467 jobs from the nonprofit’s other locations to Columbia Center. As it has previously planned, PeaceHealth will move another 150 jobs from current Southwest medical center offices to Columbia Center for a total of 617 jobs there.

The transition of jobs to Columbia Center is expected to be completed by June 2014.

PeaceHealth is consolidating its headquarters and back-office operations at Columbia Center into what it describes as a “shared services center.” In addition to housing corporate executive staff, the center will encompass such departments as accounting and payroll, information technology, and supply chain and materials management.

The consolidation is aimed at making PeaceHealth more efficient and at positioning it for growth.

Yordy, the PeaceHealth president, said the hope is to grow the staff at Columbia Center to as many as 1,000 people by 2020.

PeaceHealth’s lease agreement with PacTrust, which manages Columbia Tech Center, has not been finalized.

Yordy declined to comment on lease figures, citing a confidentiality agreement. He said PeaceHealth is seeking a 10-year commitment. The nonprofit has a memorandum of understanding and a letter of intent in place. Yordy said the plan is to finalize the deal within four weeks.

‘Excellent amenities’

Yordy said PeaceHealth will initially occupy roughly 70,000 square feet at Columbia Center and then eventually increase its space to 140,000 square feet, more than one-fourth of the building.

In a news release provided to The Columbian by PeaceHealth spokesman Brien Lautman, PeaceHealth said it chose Columbia Center for its “excellent amenities,” including a fitness center, cafeteria and conference center; for the surrounding shopping and restaurants; and for its proximity to freeways and Portland International Airport.

Wayne Bolio, senior vice president and general counsel for Nautilus, said Monday the company is not being displaced by PeaceHealth’s move into the same building. “It’s just a page in the evolution of the building” into a multiuse site, Bolio said.

As for Hewlett-Packard Co., it is expected to move into the huge building sometime this summer.

Aaron Corvin: 360-735-4518 or aaron.corvin@columbian.com. Reporter Cami Joner and features assistant Ashley Swanson contributed to this story.