Aerospace firm eyes expansion in Washougal

Port commissioner pushes for stronger sustainability vow

A California-based aerospace manufacturer has made an offer to purchase a 3.4-acre lot in the Port of Camas-Washougal’s industrial park, where it plans to construct a 16,000-square-foot facility that would bring at least 100 jobs to east Clark County.

United Precision Corporation (UPC), which purchased 200,000 square feet of developable land in the Steigerwald Commerce Center in 2021 for $1.58 million, is “interested in further expansion and possibly (building) a research and development facility” on Lot 14E, Port business development director Derek Jaeger said Oct. 4, during a Port Commission meeting.

“We understand 14E … is one of our primary lots, so we’ll ask a premier price for it,” Jaeger said. “Right now, we’re looking at $1.245 million. We’re still negotiating.”

Port commissioners, who are tentatively scheduled to vote on the agreement during their next meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 18, voiced their approval of the proposed sale.

“I appreciate the fact that UPC is interested in continuing to develop their business here at the Port,” Commissioner Larry Keister said. “We’ve sold two parcels to them (in the past), and the reason that the Commission decided to make those sales was to make sure that we got UPC to locate here. It’s a different type of company than we’ve dealt with in the past. Them asking to purchase land to build another building kind of cements their long-term vision for this area. (It will) benefit our community.”

“This is a huge opportunity,” Commissioner John Spencer added. “There’s no way that we or most of this community could (build something like this) on our own. It’s also important to note that the money from that sale will go to future land purchases or major capital projects, so it’s something that enables us to do more down the line.”

The contract states that UPC shall “grant to the Port of Camas-Washougal, as trustee for the public, access across the property to the adjacent levee. … as consistent with access plans approved by the Port Commission.”

“I love the language about the public access to the levee,” Commissioner Cassi Marshall said. “I know that it’s really important to us as a Port community that we enhance public access to the federal wildlife refuge through the levee, so kudos for that.”

UPC is a Chatsworth, California-based company that assembles machined metal seals, precision burst discs, and check and relief valves for critical applications, with a client base that includes Boeing, SpaceX, United States Navy, U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin. In 2018, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded UPC with its “Small Business Subcontractor Excellence” award.

Jaeger said UPC has proposed building a “tech-savvy, modern-looking building” on Lot 14E.

“It’s more office-focused, not one of our usual industrial types,” Keister said. “In that section of the Steigerwald Commerce Center, the Commission’s proposed vision was going toward utilizing the views of the Steigerwald refuge and access to the trail, so (this building) would fit right into what we’ve been talking about.”

Marshall called the proposed purchase “an exciting opportunity,” but questioned some of the wording in the initial contract around sustainability.

“The language around the energy efficiency standards is not binding; it’s very much suggestive,” Marshall noted. “I would like for us to have more conversations about how we make sure that our core values are represented in the final product. If we had hung on to that property, we had ideas about how it would be developed, and we had pretty strong ideas about the sustainability measures. … Stronger wording or no approval until we know that some of that is in the works or that those conversations are going to happen.”

The contract states that UPC will, at a minimum, evaluate and deploy on-site energy generation systems, such as rooftop solar photovoltaics, solar hot water systems and heat pumps where feasible. The company could also make the building solar-ready; consider greenhouse gas emissions and indoor air quality impacts of all energy sources to be used in the development; endeavor to meet or exceed Washington state goals related to carbon-neutral energy and clean building standards; and locate electric vehicle (EV)-ready infrastructure.

But Marshall said she was concerned by the lack of language requiring sustainable building practices.

“There isn’t anything about emissions,” she said. “My only issue with it is that — because of the language being ‘consider’ or ‘endeavor’ or ‘if feasible’ or ‘if possible’ — anything in there, the way it’s written now, could be interpreted as not feasible or not practical.”

“Obviously (UPC is) looking at this for the long haul,” Marshall added. “I’m guessing they’re already considering (efficiency measures) for long-term operations, but I think those are extremely important as we’re trying to figure out our energy future here.”

Keister said he believes the Port should solidify its own sustainability standards before holding companies accountable.

“We’ve talked about how we need to do something that will cement what our vision is,” Keister said. “We’re working on it, but we’re asking a company to meet standards that we haven’t approved yet. … It bothers me that we’re expecting standards that we haven’t applied yet.”

“I think that’s just a timing thing because we’re actively working on design standards, and this opportunity came to us — we didn’t go looking for it,” Marshall replied. “We’re actively working on this. (We don’t want) to dampen the project, but make it better, because this is a huge investment in our community. It’s very exciting. We want to support this. But this building is going to (cost) multi-million dollars, and it will be here for many, many decades, so this is the only chance to have any input on it.”

Jaeger said he will relay the concerns to UPC.

“We have a vision for sustainability, but we don’t want to drive businesses away as well, so we’re trying to achieve a little bit of the best of both worlds,” Jaeger said.