Fisher completes second building

Whether Calif.-based firm will move its HQ remains to be seen

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Fisher Investments has opened a second building at its Camas site, which now more closely resembles the campus envisioned in 2006, said Ken Fisher, company founder.

“We’re moving forward, doing the best we can and taking all of this one step at a time,” he said in a Thursday phone interview from the company’s Woodside, Calif., headquarters.

Whether the $41 billion asset-management firm’s headquarters flag will fly over its 120-acre Camas site remains to be seen. However, the new building does signify a strategic move toward relocating the corporate infrastructure, said Fisher, who founded his firm in the San Francisco suburb in 1973.

The structure will house the company’s processing and printing operations on the northeast corner of the campus, north of Pacific Rim Boulevard and east of Southeast 192nd Avenue. The one-story building includes exterior loading docks and space for printing equipment used to produce Fisher Investment’s marketing brochures and letters.

“This building shows our continued commitment to Clark County,” he said.

The company opened its first Camas building for approximately $30 million in November. Now, about 450 employees work there as account managers and office staff.

By comparison, the newer building will house about 40 workers, said Fisher, who would not disclose the newest development’s cost.

“The innards of the building are more capital intensive,” he said, including a $1 million printer for the company’s high-end materials.

These resources are among the tools Fisher Investments employs to reach out to its high-net-worth clients, individuals with investment portfolios of at least $300,000 or more.

The company also manages pension plans for many city and state institutions and companies such as Volvo and Boeing Co.

In all, Fisher Investments employs more than 1,250 people, the bulk of whom report to a main operation center in San Mateo, Calif., near Woodside.

Fisher, himself, is a Forbes columnist and author of several financial books.

Reasons to remain in the Bay Area abound, according to Fisher, who in 2006 launched a search for a new corporate location after announcing that he was fed up with California’s business climate. Fisher’s desire to retain his most valuable employees seems to top his list

of reasons for keeping the firm’s headquarters in the San Francisco area.

“We have more employees in California than in Washington,” Fisher said, including some key employees who would find it difficult to move due to family commitments.

On the other hand, Fisher Investments, its employees and company executives could be more financially successful under Washington’s tax climate, state business advocates point out.

“The fact that we don’t have a personal or corporate income tax is very important for investment companies like Fisher, because they are moving a lot of money around,” said Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business, which counts 7,200 private-sector employers among its members.

Other business experts say it is not uncommon for a large firm such as Fisher Investments to remain secretive about its long-term plans, including the prospect of moving its headquarters.

“I don’t have an answer why. Other than companies are always negotiating,” said Eric Fuller, president of Vancouver-based Eric Fuller & Associates Inc. commercial real estate firm.

Fisher Investments expects to complete a third Camas building -- another five-story office tower -- in 2013.