Digital pen maker Wacom, long a flagship of Clark County’s technology sector, said Thursday that it will move its headquarters for the Americas from Vancouver to Portland’s Pearl District next spring.
The Japan-based company, which makes digital pens and pads used by illustrators, animators and industrial designers, said it will relocate nearly all of its 160 employees to Portland. There, the company will occupy the top three floors of a nine-story building now under construction at Northwest 14th Avenue and Irving Street in the Pearl District. The company also will operate a ground-level retail store at the new location, said Doug Little, Wacom’s senior public relations manager.
The new office will provide 55,000 square feet, an increase from the company’s present headquarters at 1311 S.E. Cardinal Court in Vancouver, Little said.
About five employees will remain in Vancouver, providing return and repair services to the company’s customers, Little said. The company has based its Americas operations in Vancouver since 1989.
The relocation decision was made by the company’s global managers, who wanted to be “closer to the center of creativity,” Little said.
The company was forced to rush the announcement after the news was leaked to Portland-area media. Employees only learned of the move late Thursday afternoon, Little said. Although employees who live in Clark County had concerns about paying Oregon’s income tax, most took the news well, he said.
“I think 98 percent of employees are really digging the decision,” he said.
Little said he recognized that Wacom’s departure would be a loss to Vancouver at a time when the city and Clark County are trying to attract more knowledge-based companies. “From a Vancouver standpoint, it’s going to be a fairly sad loss to have Wacom go over to Portland,” he said. “Wacom will still be in the area, but let’s face it, Vancouver is a bedroom community to Portland. I think it’s sad but there are no tears running down our face.”
Chad Eiken, community and economic development director for the city of Vancouver, said he had heard rumors that Wacom might leave town, but received confirmation only last week.
“My understanding is they’re looking to have more of a retail presence in the Portland market, and that’s just something we weren’t able to really compete with. If they wanted to be on a main street in downtown in Portland next to an Apple-type store, that’s just not where Vancouver’s at,” he said.
“We understand that and don’t have any hard feelings about it,” Eiken added. “We’re glad they’re staying in the region, and that they’ll continue to support what’s happening here in the Portland-Vancouver metro area regarding tech.”
Wacom now has about $750 million in revenue and is aiming for $1 billion next year. It expects to grow over the next several years to 250 employees in the Portland office, Little said. Its products are used by graphic artists, industrial designers and others who draw digital images.
Although it’s losing Wacom, Clark County has attracted some large companies from across the river. The telecom company Integra moved its headquarters and some 500 employees to Vancouver last year. Banfield Pet Hospital is also moving from Portland to a new corporate headquarters now under construction in east Vancouver. And Fisher Investments, while maintaining its headquarters in California, has grown its workforce in Camas to nearly 1,000 employees.
Amy Fischer of The Columbian contributed to this story.