Tri-City ports celebrate contributions to economy

More than 200 Tri-Citians got a firsthand report Wednesday on how the area's three ports are working to bolster the economy.

Officials from the ports of Kennewick, Benton and Pasco, which together comprise Tri-Ports, spoke at a program sponsored by the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce in Richland about their efforts to promote economic development and job growth.

The Port of Kennewick has reduced its levy rate over the years, said Tim Arntzen, its executive director. In 1997, port district residents paid $61.65 a year in taxes on a $150,000 home to the port, but in 2009, that dropped to $52.65 a year for a similar home.

Ground will be broken this week to build a lighthouse and gateway onto 16-acre Clover Island, Arntzen reported.

An artwork dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting for the new Clover Island Yacht Club/Professional Building is scheduled at 1 p.m. today. The building provides additional space for the port to lease out, increasing lease revenues from $6,000 to about $140,000 a year.

The port also is working with other agencies to redevelop Kennewick's Columbia Drive, he said, and may consider taking out a 30-year loan using port buildings on Clover Island as collateral or may issue revenue bonds for the project, which will generate economic growth, he said.

The Port of Benton has helped bring more than 1,700 jobs with help of 135 companies that do business on its properties, which include the Richland Manufacturing Mall, Prosser Wine and Food Park and Benton City Industrial Park, said Stuart Dezember, assistant executive director of the Port of Benton.

The port also recently purchased an old video store and an old fire station in Benton City, he said, and plans to lease out remodeled space in the buildings to professional services and retail businesses. "It helps put the port's face on the main street," he said.

It'll be great to have a brew pub in the old fire station, he said, to help promote tourism and economic development.

The port's efforts to improve the surroundings in downtown Benton City may encourage other businesses to clean up storefronts and keep the momentum going, Dezember said.

The Port of Pasco has a number of projects that aim to add jobs in the area, said Randy Hayden, port director of planning and engineering. The port recently sold about 13 acres to Easterday Farms for a fresh potato packing plant at its Pasco Processing Center. The $5 million plant, which is under construction, is expected to provide 45 jobs with a payroll of $1.5 million, Hayden said.

The port also is building a new facility to help Parsons, one of its tenants, to expand. Parsons has run a technology development and fabrication complex in the port's Big Pasco Industrial Center since 2000. The expansion will help create more than 200 high-paying jobs over the next three years, Hayden said.

Work also is continuing on designing an anchor building at the port's Riverfront Business Park, he said. The port hopes the business park, with its unusual business setting near the river and close to warehouses, manufacturing space, good transportation access and recreational opportunities at nearby Sacajawea State Park, will help generate $90 million in investments and provide 1,700 jobs over the years.

-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541;; Business Beat blog at