Vancouver prepares for ‘new economy’

City develops plan to capitalize on urban core

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The city of Vancouver recognizes that the recession has hit families and businesses hard. However, the immense economic shift has also brought forth new and different industry opportunities, and a chance to develop new workforce skills in local residents amid a “new economy.”

What is this “new economy,” pointing to a future full of promise? According to the Kaufmann Foundation, a Kansas City-based entrepreneurship education group, it is a “global, entrepreneurial, and knowledge- and innovation-based economy.” This same definition and desired vision is echoed in the Clark County Economic Development Plan, the blueprint for job creation and expansion throughout Clark County, including the city of Vancouver.

Vancouver is a partner in fostering this new economic opportunity and strategically motivating it forward. Through the planned and focused development of infrastructure and cost-effective services, the city makes employment land available and ensures this is a desirable place for employers and employees to land and grow. In sum, the city helps shape the landscape in which the citizens and businesses can prosper.

• Land for employment

The city is implementing the Vancouver City Center Vision by reconnecting downtown to the Columbia River through the Waterfront Street Access project. We are also working to plan and permit the new Vancouver Waterfront Park by the end of the year. These two critical infrastructure projects will attract major private investment along the waterfront, which results in the creation of jobs. Furthermore, the access project will allow the public to connect with the Columbia River and the new Waterfront Park from downtown -- something that has not been possible for more than 100 years. Such a vibrant regional amenity can establish Vancouver as one of the great waterfront cities of the West, and serve as a draw to new employers and employees.

On the east side, we view the planned Riverview Gateway site at 192nd Avenue and state Highway 14, and the 192nd Avenue corridor, as one of the premier employment and housing clusters in the region. This area is primed for major expansions in professional services and advanced manufacturing industries, which leverages the significant presence of the existing high-tech cluster and newcomers in Fisher Investments and PeaceHealth. The city will make the “Gateway” site at state Highway 14 ready by building partnerships that identify needed infrastructure and the funding sources to build it.

• Desirable place

The city of Vancouver is working to make our community a desirable place for business by providing the best permitting and customer service in the region. Our staff is uniquely focused on problem solving and recognizes that growth of business is good for the overall community. We have developed a dedicated Business Assistance Coordinator position to provide hands-on service to any new or existing business. A recent client that worked with the coordinator stated, “The fact that you got so many city folks out there on short notice helped us decide on Vancouver.”

Beyond our internal customer service, we are working to make sure that this is a place for the “new economy” workforce to thrive, which increasingly gravitates to urban core environments. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal notes that “in recent years, high-tech has been taking a decidedly urban turn. Silicon Valley remains the world’s pre-eminent center of high-tech industry, of course. But even in the Valley, denser, more mixed-use and walkable places, like downtown Palo Alto, are becoming the preferred locations for startups and smaller firms. And many other startups--Pinterest, Zynga, Yelp, Square and Salesforce.com, to name just a notable few -- are taking up residence in downtown San Francisco.”

The city recognizes this urban ideal does not serve the entire population. However, we must capitalize on the exceptional urban core to its highest potential in order to capture this emerging industry (which is cited as strategic goal in the Clark County Plan), while continuing to develop employment opportunities across the city. In doing so, Vancouver can succeed in this new economy with a diverse employment base and citizenry that fosters a prosperous community.

Alisa Pyszka is Economic Development Division manager for the city of Vancouver.