LONGVIEW — Business leaders promised upcoming projects will bring economic growth, recreation and sustainable products to Cowlitz County as they presented to local industry heads Tuesday during the 2023 Cowlitz Economic Development Council annual meeting.
“We’ve had a very successful past 12 months, and we’re looking forward to very successful upcoming years with some of the projects that are looking at our area and some that have already been announced in our area,” CEDC President Ted Sprague said during the meeting.
Sprague said 400 businesses across Cowlitz County were able to get $6 million total in state and federal relief after years of shouldering the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tom Crowley, co-president of North Pacific Paper Company, said NORPAC has turned its focus on its recycled fiber project. At full capacity, the plant takes reusable paper waste products and uses a chemical-free process to turn out recycled paper every five seconds.
After years of planning, the Longview-based company opened a new drum pulper in October to meet growing demand for recyclable products, especially in the Pacific Northwest. The company got a $50 million investment to buy and install the pulper, which reportedly brought 100 jobs to the county and increased production capacity from 300,000 metric tons to 800,000 metric tons of recycled paper every year.
The venture will lead to more environmentally sustainable products, Crowley said.
“We do believe it’s a win-win solution between what we could do, which is a business opportunity, and (how to address) the challenge I was provided with, which was this paper was going to end up in landfills very quickly if nothing changed,” Crowley said.
Longview could soon see a new packaging facility near Fibre Way if efforts by WestRock Company succeed. The company, which currently has a paper mill on Fibre Way, announced the plan to build a corrugated box facility last year.
This plant will come with plans to slowly replace plastic packaging with recycled materials, said Patrick Ortiz, WestRock director of strategic projects.
Ortiz said the plant will be bigger than its current facility, spanning about 410,000 square feet once fully operational. They hope to open its doors and start production in the next two years.
“Hopefully I’ll get to deliver a nice Christmas present to the CEO of the company and say we’re making boxes,” said Patrick Ortiz, WestRock director of strategic projects. “We’re doing it safely. And it’s going to be a long-term investment in the community.”
- Landing on the Cowlitz
An effort to bring a commercial and residential space to Castle Rock is moving forward despite initial concerns from residents who were not entirely sold on a big construction project in their neighborhood.
Tim Schauer, land development strategist for Landing on the Cowlitz, said they listened to those concerns and are working to make sure the project aligns with what the community wants. Mixed-use development is exactly what could attract more people into Castle Rock, he said, with the housing to match.
“These kinds of projects are catalysts, in my mind, for a thriving community long term,” Schauer said.
The Castle Rock City Council in 2021 approved construction on the 118-acre site with Battle Ground-based company Tapani, Inc. at the helm.
Across the 118 acres, 54 are currently planned for industrial use and 11 acres for commercial purposes. The other areas would serve as multifamily housing, an RV park and access to public land.
Development of this scale brings some challenges, Schauer said. This means working around floodplains, drainage networks and beautifying the land once excavated.
- Board and staff changes
CEDC Board of Directors Chair Rich Gushman’s two-year term concluded Tuesday, with the council voting to approve the new staff switch-ups.
Kelso City Manager Andrew Hamilton will become the new chair. Craig Anneberg of the NORPAC and Port of Woodland CEO Jennifer Wrey-Keene will serve as co-vice chairs.