When the Benaroya Company purchased 86 acres on South Hill of what was a former microchip plant, it was the genesis of a business investment that has yielded dividends for the South Sound.
Since 2008, Group Health has opened a medical center on the campus that serves 30,000 patients annually, and Parametrix and Westwood Shipping, two family-wage job producers, have located in the Benaroya South Hill Business and Technology Center’s west building.
TriWest, a Phoenix-based firm that handles medical support for Veterans Administration members, plans to locate on the second floor of the west building starting Jan. 1, when it will launch a five-year contract with the VA. It plans to employ 100 by mid-2014.
In addition, Western Institutional Review Board, a nationally known company with headquarters in Olympia, plans to relocate its corporate office to the Benaroya campus on the bottom floor of the west building. WIRB will employ 200 to start, many of whom will be new hires. There also will be a new distribution center for The News Tribune that serves 100 carriers.
Total anticipated employees campus-wide next year is expected to hit more than 500, according to Lisa Goodman, director of marketing for the Benaroya Company.
Tom Utterback, development services director for the City of Puyallup, said his staff members have streamlined the permitting process to enable companies that locate at the center to move in quickly and complete tenant improvements on a tight schedule. It also helps that Benaroya has set up the Class A office space on the campus to be move-in ready, he said.
“They have a good team of people working on their facilities management,” Utterback said. “We are pleased to have them in the community. Companies are catching on that it’s a good site.”
Prior to Benaroya’s purchase of the property, Goodman said there was a semi-conductor plant on the campus that intended to make microchips for computers. The property was built in 1984.
“The chip market went south, so it was never occupied,” Goodman said. “We ended up converting that to a data center that is air-cooled. We have completely revamped the entire campus and grounds. We’ve completely stripped down to the shell and re-done it into Class A office buildings and a world-class data center.”
Utterback said the infrastructure includes water, sewer and power.
A south building on the campus is currently empty, Goodman said. The Benaroya Company is looking for tenants to fill that space.
Goodman said the Benaroya Company is happy with the collaborative relationship it has with Puyallup, the Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce and the Tacoma-Pierce County Economic Development Board.
A bus tour for WIRB employees was carried out last July, thanks to the partnership. Employees enjoyed a full tour of the campus, as well as the nearby campus of Pierce College, Bradley Lake Park and adjacent shopping and dining amenities.
Job fairs also done in concert with WorkForce Central have been carried out to benefit company rollouts like TriWest. Pierce Transit also provides transportation options.
“It’s a fantastic partnership to work collaboratively to try to land people at the campus,” Goodman said. “It’s a great city.”
The Tacoma-Pierce County Economic Development Board has played a part in attracting employers to the campus, with the exception of Group Health, according to Susan Suess, senior vice president of the board staff.
“We’re a private organization,” Suess said. “Our role is to give information about Pierce County to employers. Often, companies want info about training programs and workforce quality.”
In the case of TriWest, Suess said the company asked the EDB to identify potential sites.
“We are not real estate brokers on our own, but we do have a really good data basis of partners that are real estate brokers,” Suess said. “If someone asks to identify sites, we send out a site search. All responses come to us, and we package them up and send them on.
“We arrange for tours. We like to work with different communities. We provide information and insight to the company, and then they approach the real estate of what best meets their needs.”
Suess also was happy with the bus tour that was organized in July.
“Shelly Schlumpf (of the chamber) took the lead on the tour and coordinated a great day,” Suess said. “This was a good example of when we band together. We can do a good job and deliver really good services.”
Suess said the Benaroya Company’s purchase of the campus and its subsequent investments have been a boon for employers who are looking to locate in Puyallup. Suess said Benaroya has set up the site and develops a predictable timeline for tenants.
“Often, that can be a key driver, because the unknown might cause delays that can make a project more challenging,” Suess said.
The number of new employees anticipated to be hired on the campus in the coming year will have an impact on the economy, Suess said.
“When you have employees that come from out of the area, those salaries to the workers get circulated multiple times into our community,” she said. “Not all of them will live here, but they will be spending in the local area.”