To preserve privacy and secrecy, the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County issued a code name: “Project Metropolitan.”
For lack of space, an Olympia firm with more than 200 employees intended to move.
The search began in Pierce County.
And now, officials have announced that Western Institutional Review Board will move to the South Hill Business and Technology Center in Puyallup.
Owned by the Benaroya Co. of King County, the 92-acre campus originally housed Fairchild Semiconductor and was later used by Japan’s Matsushita. Sold to MicroChip Technologies, the site later went to Benaroya. At its height, under Fairchild, the complex accommodated more than 900 employees.
Today the site contains the operations of the engineering, environmental services and architectural firm Parametrix, and the ocean carrier Westwood Shipping Lines.
Western International Review Board will likely move to the campus at the end of the year, according to David Foster, WIRB compliance officer, who spoke to an Olympian reporter.
Other company officials were not available for comment Thursday.
“The Benaroya folks and the City of Puyallup have been superb partners in working with Western IRB as they were looking for a facility that would meet their needs,” said Susan Suess, senior vice president of the EDB, on Thursday.
“They needed an office that could combine their operations, and in an urban environment,” she said. “Now they have a great facility in a parklike setting that has ample free parking. They are next door to Pierce College. The site is adjacent to Bradley Park, with great hiking trails. Benaroya has made this into topnotch Class A office space.”
The Review Board, based now in Olympia, also has an office in Vancouver, B.C. Suess described it Thursday as having “in-depth regulatory experience. The responsibility of an institutional review board is to protect or to ensure that the rights and welfare of any human research subject are protected.”
If a pharmaceutical or medical device company plans to use human subjects to test a product, regulations require that the protocols be cleared by an institutional review board.
“They provide oversight, compliance,” Suess said. Along with review by employees, the board also may consult with specialists.
According to Dun & Bradstreet, the for-profit company is owned by Arsenal Capital Partners, based in New York.
In Thurston County, WIRB operated on two sites in West Olympia, one near Capital Medical Center and the other near the county courthouse.
Hosted by the Puyallup Sumner Chamber of Commerce, some 50 employees on Thursday toured the Puyallup area riding a luxury coach.
“I asked if they had ever been in Puyallup,” said Chamber President and CEO Shelly Schlumpf. “They had been to the fair. They asked if there was always that much traffic.”
Schlumpf said the group toured the Benaroya facility and discussed concerns including “housing, day care, schools, general shopping and restaurants. They wanted to know about the park and the college. They wanted to know about health care facilities, and they asked about college classes. They also wanted to know about the downtown and transit. We talked about concerts in the park and the farmer’s market. We had a great lunch at Best Western Premier.”
The move, she said, “is a success story. We do have the resources to attract businesses that are looking for growth, and we also have the quality of life for their families. That’s what matters. This is a sign of health for our community. It just makes me smile. This is economic development at the grass roots. You move 200 more people in your community who are contributing to the economy.”
“We know their importance to the region, and we’re really pleased they’re staying in Puget Sound,” said Suess. “They could have moved anywhere. They are an internationally known company. It’s in a cluster – health services – we want to grow, and we’re pleased they’re growing here. We look forward to welcoming them to Puyallup and Pierce County.”C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535 firstname.lastname@example.org