Port of Camas-Washougal nabs $3 million federal grant

Money will help build 50,000-square-foot building in Washougal industrial park

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The Port of Camas-Washougal recently learned that it will receive a $3 million federal grant to help construct a new, 50,000-square-foot industrial building at the Port’s Washougal-based industrial park.

“We were super excited and very thrilled to hear that we were awarded,” said Kim Noah, the Port’s director of operations. “We thought that we had a compelling story, but we knew that we were competing against so many other small communities that also had compelling stories and needed money for economic development. We were very honored to be considered.”

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the Economic Development Administration grant on Oct. 21.

The Port’s industrial park is home to 54 businesses, which employ more than 1,000 workers. For the past six years, the park has maintained a 100-percent occupancy rate for nearly 350,000 square feet of industrial space.

“According to the Port, requests for space in the industrial park is at an all-time high, and the Port is unable to meet this demand. Development of 14 percent more space will allow the Port flexibility in the size of its leasable bays in order to maximize use of space by a variety of businesses,” U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA, stated in her letter of support for the project. “The mission of the Port is to strengthen and diversify the economic base in East Clark County, and further development of its industrial park is a significant step toward accomplishing this goal.”

The new building — dubbed “Building 20” by the Port — is expected to create 130 jobs and spur $10.6 million in private investment, according to a news release issued by Cantwell’s office.

“Yet another reason I supported the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was because it established ‘opportunity zones’ like the one that’s bringing 130 new jobs and $10 million in private investment to Washougal,” Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican representing Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, stated in a news release issued by the Economic Development Administration. “Job creation has always been my top priority, so I’m grateful to the Department of Commerce for targeting the tools congress provided through the 2017 tax cuts bill in support of the Port of Camas-Washougal’s effort to bring more manufacturing jobs here.”

The Port has received requests from 30 businesses interested in leasing a combined 120,000 square feet of space in the industrial park within the past year, Noah said.

“We have a huge demand for space. It’s been crazy,” she said. “With COVID-19, we thought for sure the demand would slow down, but the pandemic hasn’t impacted industrial businesses as much as retail. We wish we had more money to build even more (buildings). Regionally, the building can’t stay up with the demand. People and companies want to move here, live here and work here.”

Construction on the new building, which will include 15 3,000-square-foot bays, is expected to begin next summer and be completed by spring 2022, according to Noah.

“We want to hit the ground running and get it done as fast as possible,” she said. “In the next year, (Port business development manager) Derek (Jaeger) will be working to lease out the space. We anticipate that the building will be 100-percent pre-leased before it’s built based on the demand.”

The building will likely cost about $7 million to construct, Noah said. Earlier this year, the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board awarded the Port $1.4 million for the building. The remaining $2.5 million will come from the Port’s reserve fund.