Part 2 of PROFILE: Paul Dennis; His View of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association

September 12, 2011

By Martha Martin

Paul Dennis, President & CEO of CWEDA

Part 2 of Paul Dennis, President and CEO of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.  

Click Here to see Part 1.

Marketing CWEDA 

Dennis said that he and the CWEDA board are in the process of selecting a company to do the marketing and image building for CWEDA.  He wants an identity that is “distinctive and unique” for the communities.  Considerations will include everything from advertising color to the type of print font to the logo.  He wants all of this to create a marketing image with a strong association to CWEDA and the Camas-Washougal area.

The website is not up yet, but should be completed by mid-fall. Dennis said the site should offer information that is obtained quickly.  His hope is to have all of this completed in less than a year. 

Plans for job retention 

Regarding his plans for job retention, Dennis said that right now, after the development of CWEDA’s marketing plan, the primarily focus will be on some of the larger companies. He has plans to begin engaging more commercial retail in the months to come.  His thought is to make sure larger companies are stable, and with fewer of these, he is able to start there first.  He also sees these businesses as major drivers of the overall economy.  The next step is to assist those businesses that are already here, followed by expansion for those businesses that have a need, desire, or capability to expand.  According to Dennis “our biggest and best wins will be in our backyard.”

Another area of focus is the CWEDA strategic planning process, which he said has already begun.  He plans to include information from CREDC, the Port, Camas, and Washougal.  He suggested that plans should concentrate on public infrastructure.  He stressed the importance of the public’s willingness to invest in their area, and that this will motivate business to do the same.

Workforce is another key aspect of strategic planning, according to Dennis.  He said that we have an advantage in a technical workforce that already exists in companies like Wafer Tech, Sharp, SEH America, INT Body Coat, UL, and Logitech.

According to Dennis, as new products and companies come into this area, maintaining a baseline workforce with intellectual knowledge will be critical in terms of our economic development.  This also needs to be part of a strategic plan.

What’s in the future? 

What does Dennis see for Camas and Washougal?  Dennis said that looking out two years, “you’ll see market pressure for major retail to occur in west Washougal and east Camas.”  He cites the activity of the last five years along 192nd avenue.  He explained that the desire for retail to locate there came from the knowledge of being able to tap into consumer dollars.

Dennis said that now there also is a realization, with the growth that is occurring, that  relocation to east Camas or west Washougal would be just far enough away from other stores to prevent what he calls cannibalization.

According to Dennis, cannibalization used to be common.  Lowe’s and Home Depot used to locate near one another to try and “cannibalize” each other’s market.  He said you won’t see that so much anymore.  Stores like QFC and Fred Meyer are “fighting for the same dollar”, and are now paying more attention to client profiles, rather than locating next to each other.

Dennis already has a CWEDA project underway.  One particular manufacturing facility he described as “a great asset”, is currently located in Washougal.  There are, according to Dennis, investors attempting to restart the company, and both Dennis and CWEDA are “getting close to an announcement”.

Dennis’s assessment of  Camas and Washougal is that they are generally economically healthy.  He does admit that “everybody’s hurt through this recession.”  He has observed, however, that the Port Industrial businesses are “actually doing quite well”, with some businesses talking about expansion.

Asked about the identity of our area and what would work here, Dennis stated that alternative energies are a great fit. This includes everything from Solar to LED lighting.  He sees this area having a strategic advantage because we already have companies here that are doing these things.

How about our relationship with the local colleges and universities?  Dennis said that is part of the full spectrum when looking at the educational capabilities that can produce good candidates for local jobs.  It’s important to include the small and larger educational facilities in the strategic plan so they also can grow along with business.  He said that kindergarten through high-school must also be part of the equation, and that it has to be a coordinated effort by all.

Competing or Cooperating with CREDC?

Dennis said he has been working “hand in hand” with people at Columbia River Economic Development Council.  He has received help with assisting a couple of key companies in East Clark County needing Workforce training.  He has also received support with re-starting the manufacturing plant in Washougal, as well as assisting other businesses with locating here.

Dennis sums up the necessity to work with CREDC as “what’s good for this community is also good for the rest of Clark County.  Business doesn’t know political boundaries.”

Working with CREDC is part of what Dennis calls a “regional approach.”

 Job Challenge and Balance 

So how does Dennis balance his personal and professional life?  He said that is a huge thing to undertake.  He will take a nap during the day, and then take a call at 9:30 at night.  He sees his major challenge as being part of this community.  People know him at the grocery store or at the soccer field, and they ask him questions.  He said “that’s fair game because I’m working for the community.”  He reminds himself that he is not going to have a 9 to 5 schedule.  Some weeks he will have more time into the professional side.  His 14 years of public service have taught him how to pay attention to the signal of stress.

What are the challenges of his new job? Dennis said that trying to attract new business, meeting with existing business owners, encouraging job and business retention, and adding the process of setting up the new CWEDA Corporation is “a bit challenging to try to divide up the time.”  He does add that it is also “fun”. 

Dennis summed up by stating “I know what business is looking for.  I also understand what some of the push points are on the public side and what they can really do in terms of helping to attract business.”