Officials cheer opening of Port’s new ‘Building 20’

Industrial park building includes 15 tenant spaces, solar-ready designs, EV charging stations

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The Port of Camas-Washougal has completed its latest multi-year effort to bring additional jobs to east Clark County.

Port officials welcomed a variety of local dignitaries and business owners to celebrate the opening of their new industrial facility at the Steigerwald Commerce Center in Washougal on Friday, April 14. The event was highlighted by expressions of gratitude and optimism, along with carrot cake and local beer.

“This is an exciting time for the Port,” Port Chief Executive Officer David Ripp said to the gathered crowd. “This is our second 50,000-square-foot building in less than five years. The space that we’re in right now is the only space available in the entire building. Before we even had occupancy, this was a spec building (and Port director of business development Derek Jaeger) had 80% of it leased out.”

“Building 20” is split into 15 tenant spaces ranging from 3,300 to 13,200 square feet, and includes a variety of sustainability features, including solar-ready designs, electric vehicle charging stations, LED lighting and recycled materials.

“I’m short for words, honestly,” Jaeger said. “You work on something for so long, and then it’s finally here, and you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s fantastic.’ When you work on a project for so long, there’s always challenges along the way. It’s kind of like a sports analogy — you have some games that you might lose, but you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and finish the season. But when you get to the end of a project like this, you kind of forget about all of the problems you had along the way.”

The pre-engineered metal building was designed by Chris Walker of CIDA, a Portland-based architecture and engineering firm, and built by Rotschy Construction, a Vancouver-based construction company.

The project was partially funded with a $3 million grant from the Economic Development Association and $1.44 million from the Community Economic and Revitalization Board.

“It’s been a difficult project from the standpoint of weather, COVID, logistics, and material,” Ripp said, “but at the end of the day, it was very successful.”

Five tenants — Arbiter Backflow, an Oregon-based manufacturer of backflow prevention products; Real Carbon, a Hood River, Oregon-based composite engineering company; Grit Overland, a Vancouver-based “adventure-style camper van” manufacturer; Recluse Brewing, a small production brewery recently launched by former Widmer Brothers Brewing and Wayfinder Beer brewer August Everson; and Grains of Wrath Brewing, which plans to open a small taproom in its new space to complement its flagship downtown Camas flagship brewpub/restaurant — have leased 12 of the bays. Jaeger expects to have the remaining three bays leased out “in the near future.”

“We’re really proud of the diversity of tenants we get and draw,” Jaeger said. “A diversity of tenants helps comfort you in times when you are down. The types of jobs are great because there are entry-level type positions, where there’s no barrier to entry and people come in and work their way up the ladder. You can come in with a fairly low skill set (and your supervisors) will teach you what to do. I think it’s good for the community.”

The tenants will bring between 58 to 80 new jobs to east Clark County and generate about $500,000 per year for the Port, according to Jaeger.

“That (money) will help us do other projects and pay for stuff,” he said. “It’s a big benefit to the Port.”

Port commissioner John Spencer said that he is “really excited” about the building.

“(The Port is) about bringing jobs to the community, diversity, and making our community more vibrant, and this (building) does that,” he said. “It’s really just… cool. We got another one done, and we’ll build another one as soon as we can and keep making things available in Washougal.”