Regional economic development group schedules public launch of capital campaign

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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Clark County's largest nonprofit business recruiter and jobs promoter will announce its "Opportunity Clark County" capital campaign next week, aiming to raise a total of $5.5 million through 2017 to fund its annual operating budget.

The Vancouver-based Columbia River Economic Development Council, staffed by six full-time employees, plans to use the additional money to add another staff person and to increase its economic development programs, including business recruitment and expansion, said Diane Dempcy, manager of investor relations for the CREDC.

The nonprofit's capital campaign launched in March, but the agency is kicking it off publicly with a breakfast event to be held from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Thursday at the Fort Vancouver Artillery Barracks, 600 E. Hatheway Road in Vancouver.

The breakfast event is invitation-only. It will feature several speakers, including Lisa Nisenfeld, president of the CREDC; Bill Dudley, attorney for Landerholm, P.S., and CREDC board chairman; and Camas Mayor Scott Higgins, a CREDC board member.

Sean Robbins, president and CEO of Greater Portland Inc. -- a private sector-led business promoter of the Portland-Vancouver area -- will deliver the event's keynote remarks.

The CREDC's current annual budget is about $800,000, and the agency wants to raise $300,000 more per year, from 2013 to 2017, to achieve an annual operating budget of $1.1 million. The campaign's five-year goal is to raise a total of $5.5 million.

During the breakfast event, the nonprofit is expected to announce how much it has raised as of Sept. 5.

The CREDC has hired a consultant -- Funding Solutions -- to manage its capital campaign. Dempcy declined to say how much the agency is paying the company to lead the campaign.

The new staff person the CREDC plans to hire in 2013, using the extra money it raises, will work on the agency's "land for jobs" initiative, Dempcy said. That initiative seeks to offer more shovel-ready land to employers.

The CREDC's "land for jobs" analysis identified 13 sites of 20 acres or more that could be developed for job-

creating purposes within a year and a half.

Dempcy said the additional money raised from the campaign also will enable the nonprofit to "grow our existing programs," which include helping businesses expand, recruiting employers to the area and boosting entrepreneuership.

Launched in 1982, the CREDC counts a wide range of Clark County businesses and governments among its 135 members, who fund the group and whom the nonprofit calls "investors."

For example, the nonprofit has contracts to conduct economic development work for the cities of Vancouver, Camas, Washougal and Ridgefield, Clark County government, and all three ports in the county.

Since beginning the capital campaign in March, the CREDC said in a news release, it has been securing investments from its board of directors, "current private investors, and a handful of private non-investor companies."

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ;http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com