Port of Camas-Washougal leaders don’t sell their industrial park property very often, but determined that an opportunity to bring one of the world’s leading aerospace manufacturers to Clark County was too good to pass up.
United Precision Corporation (UPC), a Chatsworth, California, company that assembles machined metal seals, precision burst discs, and check and relief valves for critical applications, has reached an agreement with the Port to purchase 200,000 square feet of land in the Steigerwald Commerce Center, where it will construct two large manufacturing buildings over the course of the next five to 10 years.
“Strategically, the Port has positioned itself as lease-only and looks at land sales on a case-by-case basis, but I see this company as a great prospect,” Derek Jaeger, the Port’s business development director, said during an April 7 virtual commissioner meeting. “They have great potential to bring some good jobs and economic development to our region.”
Port commissioners lauded the agreement after approving the $1.58 million sale.
“This really knocks it out of the park,” commissioner John Spencer said. “It’s an excellent project. It looks like it’s exactly what we need.”
UPC general manager Robert Hawrylo told the Post-Record the company also considered locations in Texas, Nevada and Florida as potential expansion destinations, but chose Washougal for its “positive business environment and quality of life.”
“This expansion will help UPC achieve its long-term goals by allowing more investment in infrastructure,” Hawrylo said. “Expansion is more affordable. The (Camas-Washougal) community cares and is interested in bringing space and defense and other highly technical and skilled jobs to the area. The Port has been amazing to work with on this project. They have been responsive, proactive, honest and caring to have UPC join the community.”
UPC’s client base includes Boeing, SpaceX, the United States Navy, the United States Air Force and Lockheed Martin. In 2018, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded UPC with its “Small Business Subcontractor Excellence” award.
“Many of UPC’s customers are very noteworthy,” Jaeger said. “They’re great customers for the long-term.”
UPC has hired Vancouver-based Tapani Inc. to manufacture a 40,000-square foot building and a 60,000-square-foot building on 4.5 acres in the southern portion of the commerce center during a two-phase development process that will cost about $18 million.
“They’re going to be very clean, modern-looking buildings,” Jaeger said. “It’s not the typical, what you would think of as ‘heavy industrial.’ It gets more into that business-park type feel. UPC really thought a lot about the location — taking advantage of the views of the mountain, being able to see the river — and the layout. It’s really going to be aesthetically pleasing, not just for UPC, but also for the public as they walk by.”
“Obviously, the office concept in the industrial park stands out to me,” said commissioner Larry Keister. “I’ve been pushing that for a long time. I know that this is definitely a manufacturing operation, but this is that first move into the office space (feel) in the industrial park, a great direction for it.”
While some of UPC’s current employees will transfer to Washougal from California, the company will bring about 75 new jobs to Clark County, Jaeger said.
“Those are two of the most beautiful lots in the commerce center,” said commissioner Cassi Marshall. “They’re spectacular pieces of property. It’s great to see something beautiful there, as well as functional and job-providing. We kind of hated the thought of losing those beautiful parcels, but it’s so exciting. We don’t have the capability to develop them at this time, and for (UPC) to be able to develop them in that way that brings that many assets to the community is really a win-win. It’s a win for the community and the jobs and everything else that (they) will bring to Camas and Washougal.”
UPC leaders are also interested in investing in their new community, according to Jaeger. They have engaged with Workforce Southwest Washington and Clark College to attract individuals from underrepresented communities to ensure workforce diversity; are exploring partnerships with the Camas and Washougal school districts to to provide awareness and education for women interested in careers in science, technology, engineering or math; and hope to work with local veteran organizations to identify and hire recently separated former military members and help them transition back to civilian life.
“I’m impressed with the STEM program for high school and college (students),” Keister said. “Hopefully, this will open up some potential apprentice-type jobs for our local youth to retain them here in the community.”
Jaeger said the sale should be finalized by August, and construction could begin later this year.