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