Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

One year later

It would have been my “paper anniversary” – that is, if I were actually married to my job.

Tuesday marked exactly one year since I took over as head of the editorial department at the Vancouver Business Journal. And while I spent most of the day finalizing this week’s print edition, the occasion also presented me with a tidy timeline in which to frame the last year in Southwest Washington business news.

When I arrived in Vancouver in July 2009, the Al Angelo Building was not yet finished. The site of the ongoing Vancouver Community Library project was a sandy, weed-covered lot. Princeton Athletic Club was open for business; nearby, the former home of The Columbian newspaper was a building still in search of an anchor tenant.

One of my first assignments involved covering the auction of George Schmid & Sons’ construction equipment at Evergreen Airfield, watching millions of dollars worth of machinery become scattered relics of boom years past.

Summer soon turned to autumn, full of talk of continued economic tension, traffic and tolls. For the city of Vancouver, it was a historic election season that swept a new, but still familiar, face into the mayor’s seat.

And yet, campaign placards still had to compete with “Closed” and “For Rent” signs on once-bustling shopping corridors as Princeton, Studer’s Floor Covering, Inc. and 1220 Main, among others, became casualties of a painfully-long and deep recession.

Despite the gloom, there was also good news. In August, the Port of Vancouver opened Terminal 5, clearing the way for increased trade in wind turbine engine parts. A few months later, Renewable Energy Composite Solutions, Inc., a division of Christensen Shipyards, unveiled its vertical wind turbine prototype in a bid to create and sustain more than a dozen jobs.

Winter turned to spring, and with the change in seasons, some hope that an economic recovery would finally begin to take hold. At VBJ’s 2010 Business Growth Awards in April, we celebrated the entrepreneurs and veteran businessmen and women who not only persevered, but sought to take full advantage of the economic opportunities the region still had to offer.

Coming from the anonymity of big city living, I watched with interest over the past 12 months as Southwest Washington’s business community banded together in tough times, forming networking groups, creating job list-services and holding countless informal events to keep in touch.

Which brings me to what sticks out the most about Southwest Washington since I took over the editorial helm at the VBJ – the knowledge that, in this corner of the world at least, people still know where their chief asset lies: in each other.