A $3 million federal grant awarded Thursday will help the Port of Woodland build a new industrial park, add hundreds of jobs and generate millions of dollars in private investments in the community.
The grant, which comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, will fund a “substantial” portion of the port’s Rose Way Industrial Park, said Jennifer Wray-Keene, port executive director.
That project aims to build six leasable buildings for light industrial and manufacturing businesses on about 12 acres off Guild Road, near the former site of the Woodland rose grower’s facility.
Once it’s finished, Rose Way could support 375 to 425 jobs, Wray-Keene said. The total number depends on which companies lease the buildings, she said.
The port is waiting to sign letters of intent with renters until building designs are finalized, Wray-Keene said. However, several current port tenants and other businesses are already asking about leasing space, she said.
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“As we always say, we have a waiting list on Down River Drive (Industrial Park). So if we had all six buildings built, we would likely have them full right now,” Wray-Keene said.
Costs to construct the first building, a 23,000-foot-structure, will be completely covered by the grant. That building alone is expected to create 126 jobs and generate more than $6.4 million in private investment, according to the Department of Commerce.
“We know that people want to see something done with their tax dollars. They want to see us do what our mission statement is: creating jobs, and family-wage jobs at that,” Wray-Keene said. “We hope that as the community starts seeing dirt moving, they feel that we are doing something good with their tax dollars.”
In addition to the federal funding, the port has received about $1.5 million in local grants and $1.5 million in state grants. With all its funding secured, the port now can move forward in approving project designs. Wray-Keene said she expects to break ground on the industrial park in the spring or summer of 2021.
Support from Southwest Washington’s federal legislators was key in receiving the grant, Wray-Keene said. U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler met personally with the port director to “make sure we could get this project underway,” she said.
“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. … I’m pleased the Department of Commerce is fulfilling this grant, and I look forward to the completion of the Rose Way Industrial Park,” Herrera Beutler, a Battle Ground Republican, said in a prepared statement Thursday.
Sen. Maria Cantwell sent a letter of support directly to the Economic Development Administration vouching for the project.
“The Port of Woodland aims to meet the growing demand for ready to build and leasable buildings in the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan area and attract jobs through the development of two industrial parks. … These new and diverse job opportunities are critical to the economic development in Cowlitz County, which has seen a decline in natural resource production and the closure of several plants in recent years,” Cantwell wrote in her letter.
Rose Way is one of two industrial parks the port plans to build in the next year. Construction on the Centennial Industrial Park, a 16-acre site kitty corner to Rose Way, is slated to begin in October. The port has already sold two of the eight lots on that site to Columbia Precast.
Wray-Keene said the port commissioners are intent on creating jobs with these projects, “especially in these new buildings that will be at Rose Way.”
“We don’t want them to be warehousing. We really want to ensure that these do create family wage jobs, especially supporting light manufacturing.”