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News / Business / Clark County Business

Small businesses right at home in Clark County

Study ranks county as having 5th largest small-business presence

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 4, 2023, 6:08am
3 Photos
Small business owner Edward Eley, right, gets an estimate for customers Robert Cherry III, left, and Krystal Rodda, both of Vancouver, at Rollin Right Bike Repair and Service. Clark County was recently ranked as one of the best counties for small businesses in the state.
Small business owner Edward Eley, right, gets an estimate for customers Robert Cherry III, left, and Krystal Rodda, both of Vancouver, at Rollin Right Bike Repair and Service. Clark County was recently ranked as one of the best counties for small businesses in the state. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Clark County is home to many small businesses. According to a new study from SmartAsset, that may not be a coincidence. The website ranked Clark County as one of the best counties for small businesses in the state.

The study ranked the county as having the fifth largest small-business presence in Washington, preceded by San Juan County at No. 1, then Jefferson County, Whatcom County and Kittitas County.

John McDonagh, president and CEO at the Greater Vancouver Chamber, said the study seems to “indicate that the businesses environment (in Clark County) has been very good for small business.”

“The benefits to small business in Clark County over others likely include the tremendous growth in population, not only in Clark County but in the entire metro area,” said McDonagh.

Klickitat, Wahkiakum, Garfield, Spokane and Skamania counties rounded out the top 10, according to the study.

“With that growth, we’ve seen a significant increase in congestion, and that bodes well for local businesses because consumers are not as willing to venture across the river to avoid the sales tax,” McDonagh pointed out. “Also, with the growth has come a commensurate increase in the number of businesses.”

The study showed a 20 percent increase in the number of small-business tax returns filed in Clark County in the last five years.

“Combining the growth in population and in number of businesses, there are simply more options for folks to do business locally,” McDonagh said.

From the small-business perspective, their location in the area is generally perceived positively.

Edward Eley owns Rollin Right Bike Repair and Service at 11015 N.E. Burton Road in Vancouver. The California native sees Clark County as being friendly to small businesses.

“So many people like to support local,” Eley said. The small-business owner has even had customers drive up from Portland to support his locally owned shop.

Eley said that he sees positive steps coming from the local governments, like the development occurring on Vancouver’s waterfront.

“That was a fair move by the city to get a name or identity for Vancouver, which doesn’t really have anything iconic,” Eley added.

Still, many businesses’ owners do have a problem with homelessness in the area.

Peter Kurfurst co-owns Butcher Boys at 4710 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. in Vancouver.

He thinks Clark County is a decent place for business owners, especially compared with the state’s more urban areas. Still, he disagreed with some of the local government decisions that have affected his shop, like the changes made to state Highway 500 and the location of a Safe Stay Community nearby.

Homelessness has been a big problem for Kurfurst’s business.

“Our customers don’t have to like to deal with that,” said the business owner, mentioning finding people sleeping behind his dumpster and catching a man who broke in to his shop numerous times.

He thinks a bigger police presence would help small businesses like his.

Eley, too, has seen shady goings-on near his shop. It’s a problem, but the police haven’t been able to do much about it. Still, he considers his shop and neighborhood to be safe, especially compared to where he grew up in Oakland, Calif.

“I have no problem with my wife going on walks in the morning,” Eley said. “And that’s a relief.”

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Both men think the local governments could do more to indirectly support small business.

For Eley, he thinks the local governments should embrace more bike lanes.

Kurfurst doesn’t spend a lot of time paying attention to what the local governments are doing. He’s busy running his business.

But he thinks local roads could be nicer and that politicians should be held accountable for their spending.

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