City discloses Banfield sweeteners

Vancouver council will discuss whether options will actually be offered

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Incentive options for Banfield Pet Hospital, which announced plans last week to build a new corporate headquarters in Vancouver, will be discussed by the Vancouver City Council at a May 12 workshop at City Hall.

The council will have two subsequent meetings, at which the public can give feedback, before it signs a formal development agreement, city spokeswoman Barbara Ayers said Friday.

The proposed incentives were included in a memorandum of understanding between the city and what was referred to as "Project Cocoa," which was signed by City Manager Eric Holmes and Kelly Orfield, a Banfield vice president, before the April 2 announcement that the Portland company would relocate to Vancouver.

The MOU was provided to The Columbian on Friday in response to a standing public disclosure request for council email.

Banfield Pet Hospital, which bills itself as the nation's largest veterinary practice, plans to bring 560 employees to east Vancouver in late 2015. The company, a subsidiary of the family of companies owned by candy giant Mars Inc., 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 plans to build a 230,000-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, Ayers said.

Ayers said the MOU wasn't a contract, but a statement of intent with a detailed list of ideas for the city council to discuss.

Among the proposed incentives, most of which would require changes to city ordinances:

• The city's annual $20,000 employee surcharge (currently capped at $50 per employee and 400 employees) would be waived for five years.

• The city would offer a 50 percent discount on traffic impact fees, up to a maximum of $200,000.

• The city would support Banfield if the business wants to seek a Community Development Block Grant loan, which is a federal grant.

• The city would build a one-acre public dog park next to the Banfield facility, at an estimated cost of $150,000.

• Banfield gets to rename a nearby nonarterial street.

Other incentives wouldn't require council action, Ayers said. Those include capping the value of the Banfield building at $3 million for the purpose of determining building permit fees (an approximate value of $300,000), temporarily deferring approximately $66,000 in sewer development charges and asking the Southwest Washington Child Care Consortium, operated by Educational Service District 112, to gauge interest in opening a new child care center near the project.

Ayers said Banfield's total capital investment will be $48 million to $67 million in real property and $10 million to $14 million in personal property, and the company has plans to grow to 950 employees at the site.

According to the MOU, the company will start with 560 employees at the Vancouver headquarters, with projected growth to 670 employees in five years and 950 employees in 15 years. The total wages and benefits of Banfield employees averages out at $125,000 per employee — significantly higher than the average Vancouver resident's compensation package, Ayers said.

As for "Project Cocoa," the MOU requires it to, among other things, discontinue negotiations regarding other prospective sites, prepare and submit a request for a pre-application conference with the city within two months of the relocation announcement and provide documentation to the city regarding the number of jobs and salaries to be created and maintained in order to qualify for the incentives.

The May 12 workshop will be at 4 p.m. at City Hall, 415 W. Sixth St. Workshops are open to the public and can also be watched on CVTV cable channel 23 or online at cvtv.org.