Article: Port of Centralia Named 2018 Business of the YearJanuary 19, 2018
By Justyna Tomtas, The Chronicle
The Port of Centralia accepted the 2018 Business of the Year award on Friday night at the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce banquet, with leaders passing on the credit for the acknowledgement to its tenants that provide more than 900 jobs and well over $100 million in assessed property value.
The port expects to double the amount of employment it offers in the next two years as two major projects — Centralia Station and a grocery distribution center — move forward. The banquet was held at the TransAlta Commons of Centralia College.
“The port commission is obviously very honored and flattered, but in the port receiving this award, it really feels more like we are accepting this on behalf of the 32 businesses that are located in our industrial parks and the developers that are working hard to develop more business in our parks,” Port Executive Director Kyle Heaton told The Chronicle. “This is really an honor to them and the good things they’ve done for our community.”
Heaton passed much of the praise on to port commissioners and the partnerships that help the port, but those who spoke at the banquet said the projects couldn’t have been completed without his leadership, commitment and drive to move the economy forward.
According to an economic and fiscal impact report prepared by ECONorthwest in 2016, the economic consulting firm found the businesses in the port’s two industrial parks in Centralia pay $53.5 million a year in salaries, wages and benefits. The local spending by the businesses and its workers trigger economic impacts throughout Lewis and Thurston counties, with an estimated 1,734 jobs and $294.4 million in economic output that is attributable to the parks.
The industrial parks also bring in nearly $2.1 million in local taxes annually and nearly $4.8 million statewide.
Todd Chaput, president of the chamber, said the port has become a frontrunner locally for economic development in the local area.
“As far as active development, they’ve been kind of leading the way in our community with the potential that we see with Centralia Station,” Chaput told The Chronicle, adding a proposed 1.3 million square foot grocery distribution center will also help the local taxbase. “What the port does is it creates an environment that’s conducive to business growth, so without the port a lot of these businesses, they wouldn’t be viable. The port is what provides the opportunity and infrastructure needed for their business to succeed, so even though it is a government agency, the port does operate as a business and their entire focus is business.”
In 2017, the port moved forward numerous projects, and 2018 also looks promising.
Cascade broke ground on a mental health treatment and evaluation center near the port’s office, Roger’s Machinery started an expansion that will bring a number of new jobs and Centralia Station and the grocery distribution center continue to move forward.
The grocery distribution center’s name has not yet been announced, but Heaton said the business will provide hundreds of well paying jobs.
Centralia Station, a 43-acre multi-use development near the Mellen Street exit, will house Fred Meyer as its anchor tenant. Heaton said he anticipates Fred Meyer will open its doors either in the fourth quarter of 2019 or the first quarter of 2020. Recently, the port became the project manager for a new off-ramp at the Mellen Street interchange that will service the businesses located in the complex.
“(The Department of Transportation) has asked the port to take over not only the design, but the construction of the interchange,” Heaton said.
The move will allow the project to be completed sooner as WSDOT is busy with various other projects.
“I think it’s a compliment to the port that they actually put trust in us to be the project manager and they are still involved and checking things, but allowing us to be a project manager it can move forward in a more timely manner,” Heaton said.
The port is in the design phase of off-site improvements that would add sidewalks to Yew Street and street front improvements on Alder Street that include curbs, gutters, sidewalks, street lights and utility expansions.
Centralia Station alone is expected to increase contributions to the taxbase significantly. A separate report conducted once again by ECONorthwest states the construction alone will trigger additional local spending that would result in a one-time impact of $76.3 million. After the complex opens, it will employ 535 people at the various businesses and total $118 million in annual sales, while paying almost $7.1 million in state and local taxes.
The recently passed tax reform act will help the port’s business, Heaton told The Chronicle, adding it’s the first time since the late 1980s that there is a federal incentive for capital investments.
“It’s good not only for this port, but all the ports and good for private industry within our county and our state from those federal incentives,” he said.
Many of the port’s tenants are already poised for expansion, Heaton said, adding the economy is “primed and ready to rev.”
“The port commission appreciates an organization like the Chamber,” he added. “… They have been a leader in this county on economic development issues, taking on tough issues that have consistently stymied growth here. They are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and say ‘hey, this isn’t working, there has got to be a better way.’”
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