Vancouver USA: No Longer Portland’s Tagalong Sibling

Way Back When… But not too far back

I grew up on the other side of the Columbia River. At that time, Vancouver seemed like little more than a sleeper town for Portland. It had several nicknames, most not exactly complementary. I’m not proud to say I laughed at many of those names back then.

In the early 2000s, there was talk that they were going to clean up this town. From across the river, everyone I ever talked to was in agreement: “Yeah, right. That’ll happen.”

Then I moved away and joined the circus for a decade. Well, kind of, anyway. I worked for two of the most well-known theme park companies in the world. I piloted monorails and drove buses. I took people on two-week safaris in Africa. I loved assisting Dr. Doom in throwing guests two hundred feet in the air for their fear. There was something special about putting guests on haunted trains through the Big Thunder Mountain Mine. The stories I can tell – but that’s for a different blog.

Returning to the PNW

While I was away, something truly magical happened back home. Esther Short Park had become a place you would want to take your family. Businesses had moved their operations to Vancouver. There were serious talks of building a Vancouver Waterfront district. They were talking realistically about building up and expanding the downtown area. There would be blocks of high-rise buildings with hotels, shopping, dining, and housing. Vancouver is growing up into a fantastic place to live, work, and play. They’re taking all Clark County along. If I could take you ten years into the past, you almost wouldn’t recognize what you saw as the same place that it is now.

Wait. You mean those plans actually worked?

Many different industries have exploded in Vancouver. This city has not just made itself respectable, it demands it. Some of the coolest inventions being created are coming from Vancouver and Camas. Some of Portland’s best breweries are moving north of the Columbia River. Well-known producers are looking at Vancouver as a great place to film their creations. They’re even in the beginning phases of starting a production school.

Later this year, the Heathman Lodge will be celebrating our twentieth anniversary. To say we’re excited is an understatement. We’ve been in a position to watch as Vancouver has grown up around us, and we’ve enjoyed being a part of the growth. Every year, small and large businesses use our guest rooms, functions spaces, and catering. We’re honored that many of them have used us time and time again. We’ve loved watching them grow their businesses and the Vancouver community over the years.

We’ve given back to the community through programs like Helping Hands. Our management has advanced green practices throughout the hotel and the restaurant. Like Southpark Seafood in Portland, we’ve led the way toward environmental sustainability in Vancouver. I was just talking to Scott, one of the managers at Hudson’s, about that the other day.


And speaking of Hudson’s, they helped with a big victory just last week. Heritage High School approached Hudson’s management for coaching. They wanted to compete in the Washington Hospitality Association’s Regional Pro Start Invitational. A few of our chefs and managers stepped up to the plate to help.

They were competing against several other teams with many years of experience. Heritage shocked everyone when they took third place in the competition. In fact, this was the closest competition the judges had ever seen. The top teams’ scores varied by fractions of a point.

The Hudson’s team has already signed up to help the Heritage High School team next year.

Connections and Culture

The Heathman Lodge has been a part of my life since before they opened their doors to guests. When I was homesick at Disney World I would go to Wilderness Lodge because it reminded me of the Heathman Lodge. It’s been beautiful to watch as this hotel and the community have grown into what they are today.

I’ve long known the culture of the Heathman Lodge and its management. I love this company and everything it stands for. Every day each of our properties makes a difference in their community. The Heathman Lodge is the flagship. When I tell people in the region where I work, they remember great experiences here.

There were good aspects to living in Portland. I loved living in Orlando. Vancouver, though, has a certain something, an aspect of community that I love. There’s an energy of a community moving forward and creating great things. It’s different in The Couve.

by Bryan White, CoHo Services