Banfield incentives greeted favorably

Vancouver council must OK some perks used to attract pet hospital chain

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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A mix of proposed incentives that helped convince Portland-based Banfield Pet Hospital to build new corporate headquarters in Vancouver were well-received Monday by members of the city council.

Some incentives require council approval, and the workshop was the first council discussion following the April 2 announcement Banfield would build a 230,000-square-foot office and training center on 20 acres at Columbia Tech Center. The company will be signing a 15-year lease with the owners of Columbia Tech Center.

Chad Eiken, director of community and economic development, told councilors that beyond Banfield, adding incentives to city ordinances would give his staff more tools when negotiating with other prospective business owners.

Clark County waives fees associated with all nonresidential new construction in unincorporated areas.

Eiken recommended the city, however, set high thresholds for qualifying for incentives. The city should consider committed capital investment, number of jobs, wages and how quickly the incentives would be paid back through increased tax revenue.

For example, a 50 percent discount on traffic impact fees, capped at $200,000, should only be offered to businesses with a minimum of 500 employees that pay average wages well above the median income. Banfield's wages/benefits packages average $126,000 per employee, Eiken said.

A project the size of Banfield would owe $590,000 in traffic impact fees at the time a permit was issued, he said, so it makes sense to give large companies an up-front discount.

In addition to the maximum discount of $200,000 on traffic impact fees, Banfield incentives include waiver of the city's annual business license surcharge for five years and a $150,000 1-acre public dog park adjacent to the building.

All of those incentives will be paid back in the first year, mostly through sales tax on construction, Eiken said.

The city learned last year that Banfield, founded in 1955 on a site overlooking Interstate 84, also called the Banfield Freeway, had outgrown its current Portland campus, Eiken said.

The Columbia River Economic Development Council was approached in fall 2013 about the potential for a new headquarters in Clark County, and Vancouver and CREDC officials gave Banfield representatives a tour of the city to show them potential sites.

Banfield, the largest private veterinary practice in the United States including 800 clinics in PetSmart stores, has approximately 560 employees and projects to grow to 670 employees in five years and to 950 employees in 15 years.

The new headquarters will open in 2015 on Mill Plain Boulevard and Southeast 184th Avenue.

Eiken said Banfield will generate a total of $14.2 million in new tax revenues in the next 15 years for the state, city, Evergreen Public Schools and smaller taxing districts.