Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vancouver USA Port Moves Toward Selling Parcel to Steel Firm

The Washington state Port of Vancouver’s Board of Commissioners have approved the first step in an effort to bring a Eugene, Oregon-based steel manufacturing firm to the port – and with it the promise of about 125 local jobs.

On Tuesday, the port board unanimously approved declaring a 22-acre port-owned parcel as surplus, setting the stage for the port to sell the property to Farwest Steel Corp.

Farwest plans, if the deal moves forward, to spend just under $5.1 million for the parcel and spend between $20 million and $30 million to develop the facility.

Farwest officials said the firm plans to take advantage of the port's rail access and the new facility, when completed, is expected to receive 200 to 300 rail cars a year. The proposed 300,000 square foot facility, which in addition to manufacturing would also include distribution and office space, could begin construction as early as spring or summer of 2011.

Proponents of the deal, both on the board and in the public, pointed to the areas desperate need for "family-wage" jobs like the 125 local positions Farwest claims the new facility will generate. The port has also calculated that the facility could create as many as 900 indirect jobs, such as truck drivers servicing the facility.

Opponents of the deal, including the union local of the powerful International Longshore and Warehouse Union, argued that selling port property instead of leasing it is a dangerous precedent setting action that would only encourage other firms to seek the same terms, thus weakening the port's ability to control and utilize the port land in the public interest.

The port board is likely to consider the second part of the process – the actual sale of the property to Farwest – sometime in July.