Economic development group trying to lure two biotech firms to Camas

One company has submitted preliminary plans to build facility

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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photoPaul Dennis President, CEOof CWEDA

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The Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association is pursuing two biotechnology companies in hopes of landing them — and the jobs they'd bring — in Camas, the head of the association said this week.

Paul Dennis, president and CEO of CWEDA, said one of the biotech companies — which he has code-named "biotech 1" — wants to build a 42,000-square-foot facility to support growth.

That company has submitted preliminary development plans to the city of Camas but a land-use change needs to be made to move it forward, Dennis said. A decision by the Camas City Council is expected by the end of this year.

The other company — dubbed "biotech 2" — hopes to eventually move into a new 10,000-square-foot building. In that case, Dennis said, CWEDA is competing against economic development officials in Seattle and Hillsboro, Ore., to win the company's favor. The company — which is in the process of raising $10 million to $30 million in venture capital funding — is located in Seattle, Dennis said, but one of its founders is originally from Camas.

Whether Camas wins the company will partly depend on the "incentives available lo

cally and at the state level," Dennis said.

Dennis said he's keeping the names of the companies — and other details — mum because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations under way.

More projects in the works

The two biotech companies are among at least 17 projects the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association is working on.

The projects are in various stages — some have been completed, while others are in the works. They involve the creation or relocation of some 200 jobs in the Portland-Vancouver metro region, benefitting Camas, Washougal and Clark County, Dennis said.

On Monday, Dennis gave an update on CWEDA's efforts to the Camas City Council during a council workshop. The update was part of a series of presentations to the cities of Camas and Washougal and the Port of Camas-Washougal.

The Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, launched in 2011, is a creation of the port and the cities of Camas and Washougal.

Dennis, the former mayor of Camas, told Camas City councilors that the local industrial sector is doing well and that the best opportunities for recruitment and expansion are small to midsize companies that have relatively high profit margins and connections to the region.

He said CWEDA has a draft website — http://cweda.workshed.com/ — and has developed partnerships with regional brokers and several other organizations, including the Vancouver-based Columbia River Economic Development Council.

Dennis said very few of CWEDA's "solid" leads have resulted from cold calls. The best leads, he said, have come from the organization's partners.