Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Office space

Call them the “digital nomads” of the business world.

Mostly of the technologically-astute variety, these are the firms that could look into Velcro as a cost-effective way to affix their company’s nameplate onto their office doors.

They are the companies staffed by employees from places as diverse as Bangladesh, Boston and Beaverton – the software designers, electrical engineers and mobile phone app developers driving the 21st century economy from anywhere with an Internet connection, at any given time.

Including right here, right now in Clark County.

With county Class A office vacancy rates hovering around 20 percent, there are few Southwest Washington building owners who would pass up a new revenue stream – even if that tenant isn’t willing to sign a multi-year lease.

But to attract a piece of this growing tech sector, flexibility in lease terms may be only part of the equation for a local commercial real estate sector looking to rebound from an epic slump.

What’s also likely to be required is a reevaluation of what that time-honored white-collar American institution – the office – might look like in a 21st century economy.

In Friday’s edition of the VBJ, we explore a new model for building owners in our coverage of last week’s opening of Executive Center Northwest in Vancouver.

The result of a unique collaboration between three Vancouver entrepreneurs, this potentially innovative facility looks to create a connection not only with its physical tenants, but with an outside network of regional service providers as well.

While the opening of facilities like Executive Center Northwest does not mean the end of the American office as we know it today, for those who have perhaps toiled for decades in an 8-by-8 foot cubicle can at least dare to dream.