Generational Know-How Drives Three Key Enterprises

By on
Brian McCord
Business acumen seems to run in the family for several of Vancouver’s best-known enterprises. In fact, generational know-how drives three major businesses in sectors where customer trust is most important – banking, funeral services and news. The Firstenburg family is at the helm of First Independent Bank, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2010. “It really is a family business. It seems like every time you turn around, you run into a family member. I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” Bill Firstenburg quips, “but it seems to work.” Firstenburg is president, CEO and chairman of the bank, which boasted its first Firstenburg on the roster when his father, E.W. Firstenburg, became a stockholder in 1936. The elder Firstenburg, who celebrated his 96th birthday in January 2009, lives at the Waterford at Fairway Village in Vancouver, an assisted living community, where he keeps an eye on the Waterford branch of the bank. “He drops in to check on operations,” Bill Firstenburg confides. Headquartered in Vancouver, First Indy has 24 banking centers from Portland to Bellevue. “We always like to say we try to out-big the smalls and out-small the bigs,” Bill Firstenburg says. “You have to go out there and find your niche and have the advantage of being flexible to adjust to the times and to consumer demands.” Joining Bill Firstenburg on the First Indy team are his brother, Bruce; two sons, Scott and Jeff; wife, Jeanne; son-in-law, Terry Flack; and sister, Joyce Firstenburg Chiles, who is a director emeritus. First Indy board meetings “are like a family reunion,” Firstenburg says. That same all-in-the-family philosophy is demonstrated at Evergreen Memorial Gardens. The cemetery was established here in 1952, and 16 years later the owners hired Willard J. Carlson of Spokane to manage, promote and further develop the business. He did just that and eventually bought it. Today, Evergreen is a full-service funeral operator with two locations. At age 85, the family patriarch is Evergreen chairman, while his eldest son, Brad Carlson, is president and handles day-to-day operations. Being a family enterprise “means everything,” Brad Carlson says. “It’s such a hearts-and-flowers business and so emotion-filled,” Carlson says. “If someone serving you has a total vested interest, they are much more intent on making sure that things are done totally properly. That pride of local ownership goes a long way.” Carlson’s wife, Mary, and their daughter, Lindsay Fisher, handle administrative duties at Evergreen, while their other daughter, Megan Carlson, is a licensed funeral director and in charge of the new crematory, which began operation in 2008. “Our ownership structure has meant a great deal in that we can offer the family our total control over their loved one from A through Z of the process. We’re the only ones in our county that have a funeral home, crematory and cemetery. It’s a real comfort to the families who come to us,” Carlson says. Yet another business with generational ties is a household name. The Columbian, Vancouver’s local newspaper, began publication in 1890 and was bought by Herbert J. Campbell in 1921. His grandson, Scott Campbell, is the publisher today.



More Articles About Vancouver, WA

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 21:22