Creatives Converging on Washougal
By Nicholas Shanmac, Vancouver Business Journal
Published on Oct. 23, 2014
It’s hard to say exactly when it started, but the city of Washougal has quietly become a destination – not just for fly fishers and anglers, but for technology and creative companies.
Early next month, Immersive Media Corporation, a provider of 360-degree, full-motion interactive video, will become the newest technology-related business to call Washougal home. The company recently signed on to occupy 2,340 square feet of office space at Washougal Town Square (1700 Main Street, Suite 222).
Immersive Media (www.immersivemedia.com), which is currently headquartered in Vancouver, will join an ever-growing list of technology and creative companies that have moved to Washougal in recent years. This list includes Internet and marketing companies such as Workshed, D. Studio 21 and Effective Web Solutions, as well as medical industry consulting and technology firms Provider Services Group and EverMed.
Much of the effort to bring creatives to Washougal can be linked to the city’s largest commercial developer, Lone Wolf Development. Headquartered in Washougal, the firm has been working to bring a variety of creative entrepreneurs and industries to Washougal’s Main Street, with the technology sector being a specific focus.
According to Wes Hickey, owner of Lone Wolf, the purpose of focusing on a key sector like technology is to create a culture of collaboration.
“The opportunity for informal communication and socialization is critical for the success of creative and knowledge-based businesses,” said Hickey.
“Thinking about who is down the hallway or outside of the building, the sectors they’re working in and having spaces that cultivate the spirit of collaboration – these are all pieces of the puzzle, and we’re starting to see the fruits of our labor,” added Adam Taylor, Lone Wolf spokesperson. “This type of environment existing in downtown Washougal has been Lone Wolf’s vision for a long time.”
Thomas McGovern, vice president of Immersive Media, praised Lone Wolf Development for that vision.
“We’re excited about this move,” he said. “As a fast growing technology company we feel it’s important to be in a creative space and Lone Wolf helped us find that here in Washougal.”
Monique Rice, vice president of sales and marketing for Effective Web Solutions (www.effectivewebsolutions.biz), said Washougal is a “perfect fit” for creatives because they can get good value out of their leases, can enjoy a high quality-of-life (proximity to the Washougal River, Columbia River Gorge, etc.) and they typically don’t require a lot of foot traffic.
“We actually needed quiet so that we didn’t have constant interruption,” she said, “but it is up and coming down here. We have a brewery down the way, little sandwich shops are popping up – we even have a juice business that delivers on a bike.”
Based on growth statistics, downtown Washougal is, in fact, up and coming. Over the past four years, the number of businesses on Main Street has more than tripled – from less than 15 in 2008 to around 50 this year.
Heather Jordan, principal and creative director of D.Studio 21 (www.dstudio21.com), moved her firm from Southwest Portland to 1887 Main Street in Washougal last year.
“When I first came to downtown Washougal, the energy felt creative to me,” she said. “Things were morphing and changing and there was a real excitement surrounding that change. I feel like from a creative standpoint, that can really breed some unique thinking and provide opportunities for relationship development. So even though it’s in its infancy in some regard, I think that is what drives people to the area – this idea of opportunity and being able to make it your own.”
“Employers start to find us and then it becomes a snowball,” noted Taylor. “It’s really exciting to see the people that are starting to show up. We’ve just always believed this is a good place for the creative cultural environment to exist. It just needed some seeds planted and now it’s starting to grow.”