County’s Top 10 employers remain steady

Name new to Clark County tops the list

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor


photoClick to enlarge


2012 Clark County top employers

Part time and full time

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center: 3,676

Vancouver Public Schools: 3,200

Evergreen Public Schools: 3,101

Clark County: 1,555

Fred Meyer stores: 1,540

Battle Ground Public Schools: 1,352

Bonneville Power Administration: 1,175

Safeway: 1,041

WaferTech: 1,000

City of Vancouver: 980


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Every name on The Columbian’s newest annual list of Top 10 employers in Clark County has been there before, with government and health care remaining the county’s dominant employers.

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center reported the strongest employment gains, while public-sector employment in local government and school districts dropped slightly as the frail economy took its toll on tax-funded services. The county’s top employers provide 18,620 jobs.

The opening of PeaceHealth’s new headquarters and “shared services center” at Vancouver’s Columbia Tech Center is one of the few employment bright spots for Clark County’s largest employers. PeaceHealth, which operates PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, had plans for 150 new jobs at the Tech Center earlier this year and another 150 later in the year.

Most will be employees relocated to Clark County from other PeaceHealth locations, said Ken Cole, a PeaceHealth Southwest spokesman. The health care nonprofit operates nine hospitals in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

All are in addition to some 200 jobs added to PeaceHealth Southwest’s payroll over the past year. The full count of 3,676 jobs at the PeaceHealth headquarters and at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center strengthened the health care provider’s place as the county’s largest employer.

Vancouver Public Schools remained the county’s second-largest employer with 3,200 employees, even with a reduction of 100 jobs. The district reported an increase of 106 students to 21,437 for the year.

Evergreen Public Schools, still the third-largest employer, reported 3,101 full-time and part-time employees, a decline of 39 employees from last year. The district, which experienced 20 percent growth in the 2000s, added just 39 students this year to 25,200 students.

Clark County government, having dropped jobs between 2009 and 2010, held steady in 2011 with 1,555 jobs. Fred Meyer was just behind the county with 1,540 workers in Clark County.

Battle Ground Public Schools, the third school district on the Top 10 list, placed sixth in employment, moving up a notch even with 114 fewer jobs than last year. The district lost 398 students, dropping to 11,909, which officials attributed in part to families relocating in search of jobs.

Camas-based WaferTech, a semiconductor manufacturer, maintained its steady presence as the county’s largest manufacturing employer, with some 1,000 jobs.

The company, which has corporate headquarters in Taiwan, last year invested $1.6 million in energy efficiency.

The federal Bonneville Power Administration, with administrative offices in Portland, continues a large presence in Vancouver, with nearly 1,200 employees at its transmission services operation at the Ross Complex in Hazel Dell.

Rounding out this year’s list were Safeway, dropping several places with 1,041 jobs, and the city of Vancouver with just less than 1,000 city workers.

The total employed workforce of about 128,000 in Clark County remains far below peak employment of nearly 137,000 in late 2007, before the recession hammered the economy. Another 60,000 workers are employed outside the county, and some 20,000 remain unemployed, according to recent figures.Overall employment within the county somewhat tracks the Top 10 listings. Government is the county’s largest employer, followed by health care-social assistance; retail; manufacturing; and accommodations-food services.