Sunday, October 25, 2020
Oct. 25, 2020

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$3 million in federal funds to jump-start Port of Woodland industrial park project

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

A $3 million federal grant is the latest piece of the puzzle in proposed industrial development at the Port of Woodland, a project that could carry major implications for the city’s economy.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded the funds to jump-start the port’s Rose Way Industrial Park, a 12-acre site estimated to eventually generate up to 450 jobs.

That money, along with another $3 million collected through state and local grants, is enough to move forward on the first of six buildings slated for the plot of land. Jennifer Wray-Keene, the port’s executive director, said they plan to break ground within a year.

“We anticipate going out to bid for construction in January. Depending how long it takes, weather relating, most likely we’ll award in March,” Wray-Keene said. “We have 48 months, under federal funding, to get the project totally wrapped up.”

Once complete, the 23,000-foot building owned by the Port of Woodland will be ready for light-industrial businesses. Wray-Keene said she’s spoken with prospective tenants and is confident in Rose Way Industrial Park’s desirability.

The first structure, a metal prefabricated building, is anticipated to house 120 jobs.

“If we had all six buildings, I could probably lease them all right now,” Wray-Keene said. “Interest in being in Woodland is very high. There’s a significant lack of industrial space here and along the I-5 corridor.”

Woodland has a population of about 6,400 people. Hundreds of new middle-class jobs could be transformative for the city, Wray-Keene said, which is often regarded as a rural bedroom community for larger cities to the north and south.

“People live here and don’t work here, or they work here and don’t live here,” Wray-Keene said. “The biggest thing they want to make sure is this is not a warehousing space. This is manufacturing space. This is going to bring family wage jobs to Woodland.”

Rose Way and Centennial

Rose Way Industrial Park is one of two twin projects underway at the Port of Woodland.

It’s cater-corner to Centennial Industrial Park, another plot of land slated for industrial development. Work on that 16-acre site, into which the port has so far invested $3 million, is scheduled to start in October.

Together, Rose Way and Centennial anchor Woodland’s broader plan — the port and city are working together to transform 426 acres of privately-owned land in Woodland Bottoms, near Guild Road, into a development for industrial use.

That yearslong process started with a feasibility study back in 2014 and will require major infrastructure investments, including the extension of roads and utility lines into the area. Wray-Keene said the full project will require an investment of about $65 million.

“It makes our $9 million look kind of small, but we have to start somewhere,” Wray-Keene said.

Completion of the full redevelopment project is still years away. Breaking ground on the Rose Way and Centennial industrial parks marks the first concrete step.

“It’s a lot of different pieces to put together. It’s a huge puzzle to make sure everything goes right,” Wray-Keene said. “We have to kind of weigh everything with the other projects, too. We also want to watch the market — we don’t want to build a building nobody wants.”

Lawmakers weigh in

Sen. Maria Cantwell sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce in support of the project’s grant application more than a year ago, in June 2019.

In her letter, the Democratic senator urged that the grant funds would prove “integral to the economic development of the Port of Woodland and the larger Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area.”

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the award of federal funds on Aug. 20.

“President Trump is committed to creating American jobs and business opportunities, especially by improving our country’s infrastructure,” Ross said in a press release. “The new Rose Way Industrial Park will achieve these objectives by supporting business growth in light-manufacturing industries and creating new employment opportunities for Woodland and nearby communities.”

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, lauded the funds as “great news for workers and the manufacturing industry in our region.”

She added that the first building at Rose Way Industrial Park alone is expected to generate more than $6 million in private investment.

“Creating jobs and improving Southwest Washington’s infrastructure is of paramount importance, which is why I worked to help secure this critical grant for the Port of Woodland,” Herrera Beutler said in the prepared statement.

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