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Washougal job-creation projects eyed

New community development entity looks to raise $30M

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter
Published: October 22, 2014, 5:00pm

A new community development entity in Clark County is asking the U.S. Treasury for the right to sell tax credits to raise as much as $30 million in investment capital to finance the construction of job-creating projects in Washougal.

The entity, Columbia CDE — a limited liability company spearheaded by the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association — hopes to win the authority to pursue three projects, all located in economically distressed areas:

• A new library building, which also would include room for commercial and residential spaces, in downtown Washougal.

• An 80,000-square-foot industrial building at the Port of Camas-Washougal’s Steigerwald Commerce Center.

• A 30,000-square-foot industrial building at the Steigerwald property.

Altogether, the projects — included as part of the federal application filed by Columbia CDE on Sept. 30 — could generate at least 200 jobs, said Paul Dennis, president and CEO of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.

Tapping the federal New Markets Tax Credit program is a competitive process, though. And the fate of Columbia CDE’s application won’t be known until May. “Just because we asked for $30 million doesn’t mean they’re going to approve that,” Dennis told The Columbian on Wednesday. Still, he said, the fact that Columbia CDE has submitted a targeted application involving viable projects in areas that need them should bode well for the outcome.

Dennis gave an update of the ongoing effort to secure federal tax credits as part of a larger discussion of economic development by Camas and Washougal city leaders and Port of Camas-Washougal commissioners. The discussion occurred during a special public meeting on Monday at Lacamas Lake Lodge in Camas. No decisions were made.

As part of his presentation, Dennis also discussed in broad terms other efforts to attract employers to east Clark County. Active cases include: a large manufacturer seeking 50 acres in several different communities, including Camas and Washougal; a wholesale distributor considering Camas, Washougal and other places for a 60-acre site; the potential reuse of an old industrial building in Camas for multiple tenants; and a small aerospace equipment manufacturer hunting for space, including potentially at the Steigerwald property.

Dennis didn’t go into details because of the sensitive nature of negotiations.

Advisory board

If Columbia CDE succeeds in trying to tap the federal tax credit program, it would use the credits to lower the cost to private investors of injecting capital into job-creating projects in low-income areas that may otherwise struggle to attract conventional financing.

The development entity will operate as a private organization, analyzing project proposals. In September, Dennis said the composition of the entity’s governing board had yet to be finalized. According to registration data kept by the Washington Secretary of State’s corporations division, its governing members are David Lugliani of Camas, Broughton Bishop Jr. of Vancouver, Albert Angelo III of Vancouver and Matt Olson of Brush Prairie.

An advisory board will help guide the organization’s board, aiming to ensure its actions benefit the community. The advisory board’s members are:

• Cathy Garland, regional director of Western Washington for the Children’s Home Society of Washington.

• Bill Macrae-Smith, Port of Camas-Washougal commissioner.

• Wanda Nelson, center manager of The Meals on Wheels People Camas-Washougal.

• Steve Hogan, Camas City Council member.

• Amber Barnes of the Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls Club.

• Lloyd Halverson, board member of the Vancouver Housing Authority.

• Brent Boger, Washougal City Council member.

The cities of Camas and Washougal and the Port of Camas-Washougal agreed to pursue the federal tax credit program, allocating a total of $87,500 in one-time seed money to the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.

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The association is using the money to pay a consultant — Portland-based Pilot Management Resources LLC — to navigate the federal program’s requirements.

Congress created the New Markets Tax Credit program in 2000. The program allows individual and corporate investors to receive a tax credit against their federal income tax returns in exchange for making equity investments in development entities. The credit totals 39 percent of the original investment amount and is claimed over a period of seven years.

In April 2013, for example, the U.S. Treasury announced $3.5 billion in New Markets Tax Credit awards nationwide. The awards provided 85 organizations with tax credit allocation authority.

In Washington and Oregon, several projects have used the program, including Farwest Steel Corp., which in 2011 obtained $48 million in federally subsidized financing to build and equip its steel fabrication plant in Vancouver.

Columbian Port & Economy Reporter