(Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)
The Port of Camas-Washougal broke ground Thursday on its 120-acre Steigerwald Commerce Center, aiming to bring as many as 300 to 400 jobs to a portion of a site believed to be the largest industrially zoned, undeveloped parcel in Clark County.
East county officials joined the port for the ceremony, held at South Truman and 37th Street in Washougal, inside the port’s existing industrial park and next to the Steigerwald property.
For three years, the port has wanted to prepare Steigerwald for development in hopes of luring employers, said David Ripp, the port’s executive director. Finally, that project is under way. “This is going to open up a lot of opportunities for the port,” he said.
Thursday’s groundbreaking kicked off a $2.5 million infrastructure project that includes building 2,500 linear feet of street into the Steigerwald parcel. It’s the first phase of an overall effort to move the property to market and will open up 30 to 40 acres of the site to employers.
Battle Ground-based Tapani Underground Inc. will build the new road and is expected to finish in 60 days, according to Ripp. Vancouver-based MacKay and Sposito Inc. is the lead engineer on the project.
The port doesn’t have any companies lined up yet to move into the new space, Ripp said, but the idea is to be ready when the economy strengthens and employers come looking.
The port’s work on the Steigerwald parcel is part of a larger regional effort to offer more shovel-ready land to employers. Spearheaded by the Columbia River Economic Development Council — the Vancouver-based nonprofit jobs promoter and business recruiter — the effort seeks to build up Clark County’s inventory of land zoned for industry.
The CREDC’s “land for jobs” analysis identified 13 sites of 20 acres or more that could be developed for job-creating purposes within a year and a half. Initially, officials thought it would take more than 18 months to make the Steigerwald parcel shovel-ready, but some key issues fell into place and the property moved to the front burner, Ripp said.
During Thursday’s ceremony, officials also pointed to the county’s cooperative efforts to boost economic development, highlighting work by the port and cities, and the region’s two nonprofit jobs promoters: the Columbia River Economic Development Council and the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.
Port Commissioner Mark Lampton said regional leaders are working “to bring industrial lands on line” and that the Steigerwald project “is just a first step but a significant one.”
Washougal Mayor Sean Guard said east Clark County’s economy is heating up and the Steigerwald parcel is part of that trend. “We want more people to be employed here in town,” he said. “It’s all about economic development.”
The port’s existing industrial park encompasses 430 acres and has a 2 percent vacancy rate, Ripp said, so the first phase of the Steigerwald project adds much-needed room for employers.
The 120-acre Steigerwald area is west of Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge and just north of the Columbia River.
Of the $2.5 million the port will spend on dressing up the property for employers, $1.5 million came from the Washington Legislature earlier this year as part of the $1 billion Jobs Now Act budget package it passed to build capital projects and to stimulate the state’s economy.
Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; firstname.lastname@example.org