Port of Vancouver USA's Expansion Capability Attracts Manufacturing

May 30, 2012
The port has more than 50 tenants in areas including wind energy and light manufacturing.

Located at hub of the Pacific Northwest on the Columbia/Snake River System, the Port of Vancouver USA handles more than 500 ocean-going vessels, as well as river barges, with a total cargo volume exceeding 5 million metric tons.

"Since its creation 100 years ago today, the Port of Vancouver has been vital to Washington's thriving trade economy," said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell. "Port activities, from shipping grain to importing wind turbines, support 16,000 jobs and growing."

In 2011 the port's performance in terms of cargo movement held steady at 5.6 million metric tons, down only slightly (1.8%) from 2010. Cargos such as wind energy, pulp, scrap metal and project cargo saw growth last year, while other cargos, including automobiles, wheat and bulk minerals, dipped due to the recession and global events. One reason for the overall steady business is due to investments that helped the port during the recession, according to Port executive director Larry Paulson. "We have also positioned the port to grow. This growth has already begun, and will be exponential in the coming years."

And it was the ability to grow that caused Farwest Steel Corp., a fabricator of specialty steel products, to consolidate some of its operation at the port as well. "We looked long and hard throughout the region for a location that best suits our ability to grow and efficiently deliver quality products to our customers," said Patrick Eagen, CEO Farwest Steel Corporation. "The port had industrial land ready to build, with the right river, road and rail connections this is the best choice for us."

Although the port is the third oldest and largest in the U.S., its location is conducive to growth, which is necessary given the 97% occupancy rate. "We are unique in that we are situated away from the city and so can grow. We are able to work with our community to spur growth rather than have issues with zoning or neighborhood concerns," explains Curtis Shuck, director of Economic Development and Facilities at the Port of Vancouver USA. The availibilty of land is especially attractive to both heavy and light manufacturing, which makes up a heavy percentage of the tenants. Currently the Port is hoome to 50 industrial companies.

And the Port is planning to house more tenants through its Centennial Industrial Park project which includes more than 100 acres of light industrial property. The port has prepared approximately 50 acres for immediate development and is expected to generate up to another 1,000 new jobs when it is fully developed in the future.

To assist companies wanting to locate here the Port has been working closely with the city over the past six years to make sure that the necessary infrastructure is in place. Infrastructure improvements include the expansion of its rail system.

Additionally the Port has an ability to help secure loans for facility improvements for building upgrades as well as New Market Tax Credits, explains Shuck. SBA financing is also available.

Securing financing was an important aspect when Sapa Extrusions expanded this past January, bringing 100 jobs. The company will house equipment transferred from its Portland plant and other facilities, as well as new equipment and facility upgrades. Sapas Portland operation currently consists of six facilities that serve the solar/renewable energy, building and construction, distribution, and consumer durables markets.

A crucial reason Sapa chose Vancouver as the location for the new facility was the Port of Vancouvers success in securing an $800,000 public facility improvements loan from the Washington State Community Economic Development Revitalization Board. These funds are being used for necessary building upgrades that include replacing the buildings asphalt floor with a reinforced level concrete floor, as well as electrical, heating, vent and air conditioning upgrades.

In addition to the CERB loan, the Port of Vancouver will also provide $500,000 in matching funds to complete the improvements, bringing the total municipal investment to $1.3 million.

And the company expects to invest $6.5 million in new manufacturing equipment and additional facility upgrades that will occur over the first 12 months of occupancy at the new location.

"The cooperation between the state, the city of Vancouver and us, has been built over many years. We are able to therefore work closely with manufacturers on a variety of areas to help in the selection process. We hear from tenants that they are appreciative of this relationship," says Shuck.

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