CWEDA president advocates for local jurisdictions

Paul Dennis assists companies with permitting and other tasks

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Paul Dennis

There is no such thing as a typical day for Paul Dennis.

Since the formation of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association a year ago, his endeavors as president have included organizational matters such as forming a board of directors and securing office space. A CWEDA website is expected to be ready this summer.

On any given day, Dennis receives phone calls and visits from people representing a variety of businesses.

“I point them in the right direction about business incentives — local and statewide, and I help with property inquiries,” he said.

Dennis was contacted by CID Bio-Science when the company was in its due diligence phase of securing the American Legion building, in Camas. He said the acquisition “hit a couple of road bumps,” when CID needed to prove to the state that a previous building owner had removed an oil tank from the site.

The proof was needed before CID could receive a Small Business Administration loan.

“I outlined the process they needed to go through, to get the right certificates for SBA,” Dennis said. “That prolonged the sale by three weeks.”

He has also attended meetings with CID and Camas officials regarding architectural and planning issues, and he helped identify some potential state incentives that could be applicable for the company.

Dennis assisted Lone Wolf Development owner Wes Hickey and leasing manager Adam Taylor by identifying sales tax incentives for brewing equipment and building rehabilitation, at the future site of Amnesia Brewing in downtown Washougal.

Dennis was introduced to officials with Sapphire Materials Company LLC, through the Columbia River Economic Development Council. He assisted with local and state permitting, to reinstitute sapphire processing/growing crystals in the Port of Camas-Washougal Industrial Park.

Development fees, previously paid by Union Carbide and Saint-Gobain, were recognized, but there were issues for SMC to get a permit to discharge water.

“Mayor [Sean] Guard talked with the governor, who made two phone calls to [the Department of] Ecology, to get a permit,” Dennis said. “It was a very costly process. We were a resource for them. They had contacted other agencies for help and were getting nowhere. We outlined a path for them.”

Dennis attended a meeting with Washougal officials, regarding Foods in Season’s plans to expand and add cold storage in the port’s industrial park.

“That business is growing at a pretty good pace,” he said. “By August, they should be underway with their expansion.”

Meanwhile, Dennis knows of several potential positive economic additions to the Camas-Washougal area. They include a small tools company that is dealing with environmental encumbrances with a potential site.

There is also a biotech company that is working through the due diligence phase.

“We’re hopeful that, by this summer, we’ll be able to make that announcement,” Dennis said.

He is having “solid talks” with a couple of software companies.

“Most business owners want to run their business,” Dennis said. “They don’t want to spend a lot of time worrying about the regulatory environment and how to get permits. Every deal takes that much longer these days than it used to — dealing with state and federal regulations.”

He said companies are looking for shovel-ready property.

“The small tools company does not want to spend two years working through environmental regulations,” Dennis said. “They’re growing fast. They’re adding people. They’re adding equipment.

“They want to be here, but they don’t want to deal with having to ready a piece of property,” he added. “We’re working on shortening that up for them and other companies.”

CWEDA is a collaboration of Camas, Washougal and the port. Its mission is to expand existing businesses and bring new businesses and jobs to the east Clark County area.

Overall, Dennis said CWEDA provides a more direct linkage between the cities and the port, so businesses have a local person they can work through during the permitting processes.

“There is head knowledge of what’s available in the marketplace,” he said. “We’re able to advocate this area. Pre-CWEDA, someone probably would have gone to CREDC. CREDC can’t be an advocate for Camas and Washougal over Vancouver or Battle Ground or Ridgefield.

“We can advocate for businesses that are here or property owners working through state processes,” Dennis added. “We’re able to take a more active role in our recruitment. By all three jurisdictions sharing resources, they can do it in a pretty efficient manner.”

For more information, contact Dennis at paul.dennis@cweda.org or 607-9816.

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