Vancouver lands Banfield Pet Hospital HQ

Company to employ 600 at Columbia Tech Center site

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Clark County has landed a new corporate headquarters, a company that plans to bring 600 employees to east Vancouver in late 2015.

Banfield Pet Hospital, which bills itself as the nation’s largest veterinary practice, announced Wednesday it will build a 250,000-square-foot office complex in the Columbia Tech Center development at Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard and 184th Avenue. The 20-acre site just west of Clark College’s satellite building gives the company room to expand, a key factor that influenced its decision to relocate from its Northeast Portland headquarters.

“After an extensive search that included properties on both sides of the river, we found that the Washington location best met our needs for the future,” said Tony Ueber, Banfield Pet Hospital’s president and CEO.

The company’s relocation will include the transfer of all jobs associated with the company’s corporate headquarters, which supports 850 pet hospitals and 14,000 employees across the United States and Puerto Rico. Among the positions are marketing, corporate affairs, medicine, information technology, facilities, human resources, payroll, hospital operations, commercial and legal departments, as well as a call center, Banfield Pet Hospital confirmed by email.

At approximately 10 miles away from the company’s Portland headquarters near Northeast 82nd Avenue and Tillamook Street, the new site will minimize disruption for associates, according to Ueber, which was “at the heart of our decision-making process.”

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt said Wednesday the city may even increase the site’s attractiveness, as the city council plans to consider policies that would benefit Banfield and other large employers by waiving permit and impact fees, for example.

Unlike Clark County, which waives fees associated with all nonresidential new construction, Leavitt said the city wants to target large employers that will have a broader positive impact on the community.

Under the county’s fee-waiver program, there are no minimum employment requirements.

“We intend to take a more thoughtful approach to how we can stimulate job growth,” Leavitt said.

The state also chipped in $200,000 in strategic economic development funding, according to the Washington State Department of Commerce.

“We are proud to welcome Banfield to the growing list of prominent, world-class businesses that call Washington home,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news release issued by the company.

Leavitt called landing Banfield Pet Hospital’s headquarters a huge achievement for his city, comparing the news to hospital giant PeaceHealth’s decision to move its headquarters from Bellevue to east Vancouver in 2011. The health care company, like Banfield Pet Hospital, was attracted by Clark County’s high-ranking school systems and housing that is considered fairly affordable in the Portland metropolitan area.

One year ago, Portland-based telecommunications company Integra also announced a headquarters move and is in the midst of moving at least 500 employees from Portland to space in the former Hewlett-Packard campus in east Vancouver.

Wednesday’s news was “another feather in our cap and a reaffirmation of the trajectory we’re on,” Leavitt said. “We’re a safe community, with great schools and a national park,” a reference to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Kimberly Pincheira, director of communications with the Columbia River Economic Development Council, said Banfield Pet Hospital also liked the site’s proximity to the Washington State University Vancouver campus. Although it is unclear whether the university plans to offer a veterinary program in Vancouver, WSU’s Pullman campus offers one of the nation’s top veterinary schools, according to its website.

And WSU Vancouver is re-evaluating its offerings this year, Mel Netzhammer, the WSUV chancellor, said in a recent address to the development council.

“The company is very interested in exploring opportunities for collaboration with WSU Vancouver,” Pincheira said.

The nonprofit development council is Clark County’s highest-profile business recruiter and jobs promoter. The council and the Portland Development Commission showed officials from Banfield Pet Hospital sites on both sides of the Columbia River.

Greater Portland Inc., a public-private partnership that promotes business across the area, was also involved.

A subsidiary of the family of companies owned by candy giant Mars Inc., Banfield Pet Hospital is a franchise chain of more than 850 pet clinics and hospitals across the United States and Puerto Rico, including some in-store hospitals within the PetSmart retail chain. The company also provides health care plans for pets to monitor wellness, including dental care, behavior, parasite control, nutrition and vaccinations. It also provides some resources for pet owners to care for their pets at home.

Banfield Pet Hospital was founded by Portland veterinarian Warren Wegert in 1955 on a site overlooking Interstate 84, also called the Banfield Freeway. The company stopped offering franchise opportunities in 2009, interpreted by some as an indication that Mars Inc. was switching its focus to company-owned locations. At least two lawsuits flared up over the shift.

Ueber said the new campus planned for Columbia Tech Center will provide more than double the office space of Banfield Pet Hospital’s current headquarters. He expects the custom-built campus will cover the entire 20-acre site. In the meantime, the company will continue operations at its current headquarters until the new headquarters is ready sometime late next year, he said.

“We remain committed to the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area and look forward to serving our community, people and pets from our new headquarters,” Ueber said.

Staff writer Aaron Corvin contributed to this story.