Fisher Investments a work in progress in Camas

Company builds there, but will that be the firm’s world base?

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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photoCrews work to complete the first of two Camas buildings in time for Fisher Investments’ planned mid-October move-in.

(/The Columbian)

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The start of a second office tower at Fisher Investments’ new Camas campus suggests the site is a frontrunner in the California firm’s search for a world headquarters.

But Ken Fisher, founder and president of a firm that manages $43 billion in assets, said he has not yet picked Camas as he continues considering where to base his business in the long run.

A first tower is nearing completion, and in mid-October Fisher Investments expects to move more than 400 workers into the Camas site’s first five-story building. They will relocate from three buildings they now occupy in Vancouver’s Columbia Tech Center.

Crews from general contractor Howard S. Wright Constructors have already started the new building’s soon-to-be identical neighbor.

Fisher also said he does not know how many of the Woodside, Calif.-based firm’s 1,200 San Francisco Bay-area employees will transfer to Camas.

“It depends on too many unpredictable variables,” he said in an email.

Plans for the 150-acre Camas site call for dual office structures, parking for more than 1,200 vehicles and a secured private entrance off Northwest Pacific Rim Boulevard. The tract is on the east side of Southeast 192nd Avenue and south of 20th Street.

Since 2008, Fisher has said the site could be anything from a satellite office to a headquarters site. His company has also considered sites in Texas and Florida.

The two states are like Washington in that they do not charge a state income tax.

Sure sign?

Some say work on Fisher Investments’ second building is a sure sign the company plans to relocate its headquarters.

But the process could take some time, said Terry Wollam, an agent with Re/Max Equity Group and president of the Clark County Association of Realtors.

“You’re not going to get all of your employees to move. There’s going to be a sizable amount who want to stay in the area,” he said.

“There are the dynamics of the spouse’s job, the kids and schools,” he added.

The majority of Fisher Investments employees report to the firm’s main operation center in San Mateo, Calif., near Woodside.

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

California charges 9.3 percent income tax, described as a disappointment by Fisher, a 60-year-old Forbes columnist and billionaire. He has also said the state income tax cuts too deeply into the paychecks of his company’s workers, who earn, on average, between $75,000 and $200,000 a year.

Employees who transfer to Washington could save some money, said John Caton, president of Vancouver-based Caton Day & Co. CPAs PC.

“The impact from sales tax is going to be much less than the benefit they get from not having to pay California income tax,” Caton said.

The Golden State also assesses a tax on corporations, which could do more damage to Fisher Investments than Washington’s business and occupation tax, Caton said. He said California’s business tax is measured on the value of products, gross proceeds of sales, or the gross income of the business.

“It can be substantially more than the B&O tax,” he said.

As Ken Fisher mulls whether to move his company’s headquarters to Clark County, Wollam has sold a number of Camas houses to Fisher transplants. In 2008, Ken Fisher and his wife, Sherri Fisher, purchased a four-bedroom home in the Columbia Summit Estates subdivision in Camas.

Fisher, who founded Fisher Investments in 1973, was listed as No. 252 among the 400 richest Americans by Forbes business magazine in March. It pegged his net worth at $1.6 billion. Bill Gates, founder of Redmond-based Microsoft, topped the list of richest individuals, with a net worth of $54 billion.