Perfect storm of projects to keep port busy this year

BY JIM TOOMEY PORT OF PASCO EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR March 28, 2010 

In many ways, the last few months at the Port of Pasco have felt like a perfect storm. However, the analogy breaks down in the sense that a storm usually signals something negative.

At the port, certainly a number of unusual circumstances are converging, but they are all significant, positive developments.

While the economy may be struggling elsewhere, currently at the Port of Pasco we have over $26 million worth of projects now, or soon to be, under way.

By comparison, the port usually considers it a busy year when we have a $4 million year. This year is, by far, the largest capital expenditure in the port's history.

So, what are these unusual circumstances converging to create so much activity? One is the availability of stimulus dollars. In order to receive this funding, projects needed to be "shovel-ready." The port has worked diligently throughout the years to have projects ready for such circumstances, often planning four or more years ahead. It has paid off in the past and again this year.

The port has nearly completed over $9 million in work at the Tri-Cities Airport that otherwise would have taken up to five years to obtain funding to complete. The port also received an additional $1.5 million of stimulus money toward reroofing nine warehouse bays in Big Pasco, which it matched -- another project that would have eventually been completed but within the next 10 years.

By receiving stimulus money, not only did the Port get projects under way, boosting the local economy, but we also were able to use money we would have set aside for these projects on other port projects.

In addition, the port received $600,000 from a state sales tax program administered through Franklin County to create a public rail switch and spur into the Heritage Industrial Center. The project began last fall and when complete will open up an additional 700 acres for economic development.

Work continues on the Intermodal Transportation Center. The remaining two phases of the project total $3.1 million. The construction of a rail spur at the east end of Big Pasco is under way, and construction of the final phase of the project is designed and ready to go when funding is secured.

In another unusual situation, the port lost one of its Big Pasco buildings to fire in early 2008. To gain full benefit of the $4.2 million insurance payout, the funds must be used to construct a building within two years of the fire. After much deliberation, the port decided the best use of these funds was to jump-start phase one of the Osprey Pointe development, which includes an anchor building. The design, development and construction costs of the anchor building are being financed with the insurance money. Commissioners awarded the project to Fowler Construction in the amount of $5.05 million and with the current aggressive bid climate the port was able to include additional infrastructure work at Osprey Pointe, 8,600 square feet of tenant improvements to the building and creation of a five-acre landscaped public area with lighted walking paths to the Columbia River.

Elsewhere in the port, Syngenta, a global seed processing company, recently completed a $42 million, 130,000-square-foot plant in the Pasco Processing Center. To date, more than $160 million in private investment has been made at the Processing Center.

Meanwhile, traditional work at the port also continues. The port recently sold another piece of property in the Processing Center, work is under way to demolish and clean up older buildings, and the Tri-Cities Airport Master Plan is being updated.

In our current perfect -- yet positive -- storm scenario, what the Port of Pasco has accomplished is to compress an estimated five years of work into one, with the same staff. It is a busy time for us, but we know the entire region is benefiting with jobs, infrastructure improvements and economic development opportunities.

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