The Vancouver City Council approved a major development agreement Monday with HP Inc., which is expanding its Vancouver footprint. The agreement includes a financial commitment of up to $10 million from the city, which one official said could be the largest of its kind in Vancouver’s history of economic development.
The computer and printing giant HP has been in Vancouver for decades. It currently leases a facility at the Columbia Tech Center, but it wants to grow.
“They’ve indicated that they want to control their own destiny and have room to grow and own the property,” said Chad Eiken, Vancouver’s director of community and economic development.
The development agreement was one of the boxes that had to be checked before HP can close on that property – 68 acres in a part of east Vancouver known as Section 30. The city has struggled to attract private investment to the site, a former mining area without public infrastructure such as roads and water.
Phase 1 of the development agreement will allow HP to construct at least two buildings, with 330,000 square feet of space for offices and research and development. Over 15 years, the company could expand to 1.5 million square feet in facilities that would also house manufacturing and production.
HP’s proposed expansion comes at a time when the company has made headlines with less rosy news. This fall, it announced up to 9,000 job cuts as part of a company wide restructuring. And rival Xerox has made plain its interest in acquiring HP — through a hostile takeover, if necessary. Both companies have been challenged by the changing market for personal computers and legacy printers.
HP is looking to 3D printers for future growth. Chief technology officer Shane Wall touted HP’s 3D printers to a summit of Oregon business and political leaders on Monday. He described digital, on-site manufacturing as crucial to sustainability. He said the technology can reduce the energy costs of shipping manufactured parts and machines around the world.
Now, both HP and Vancouver are poised to make substantial investments in Section 30. A key element of the development agreement is the city’s commitment to fund up to $10 million in infrastructure improvements, including roads, trails and, possibly, a public sewer pump station.
Eiken said the city spent substantially more on public improvements related to development along the Vancouver waterfront. But he believes this will be the city’s largest investment in public infrastructure focused on a single company.
“It’s reflective of the significance of not only HP to our community, but the catalytic potential of this first phase locating in an area where we haven’t been able to attract significant economic development,” he said.
The city hopes that street and utility improvements around Section 30 will encourage other companies to locate there, too. Vancouver officials said the city will recoup its $10 million investment through future taxes paid by HP.
While the Vancouver City Council has now approved the framework for HP’s development, there could be further action ahead. The city has a couple other incentives in mind for large employers like HP. City leaders want to change the way traffic impact and business license fees are charged to companies that relocate at least 700, well-paid employees. Those amendments would require changes to city code.