RICHLAND -- DelHur Industries is getting a new Tri-City home in Richland's Horn Rapids Industrial Park.
Port-Angeles-based DelHur, which has worked in the area for years, is largely focused on landfill cell construction and environmental remediation. It chose Horn Rapids for its easy access to highways and rail, said John Doyle, DelHur vice president.
The industrial park off Highway 240 on Kingsgate Road also is close to the Hanford site, where DelHur is helping expand a massive landfillfor low-level radioactive waste and cleaning up radioactive burial grounds near the Columbia River.
The company needs to bring in, over the next four months, about 350 railcars of bentonite, a mineral to be used in making clay liners for the Hanford landfill, also called the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility.
"It's getting harder and harder to rent rail," Doyle said.
That's why DelHur has bought a 10-acre parcel from the city to build a work space and its own rail spur, he said. The facility will include a maintenance shop for heavy equipment, a certified truck weighing scale and an office.
"We did look around in the Tri-Cities at other properties, but Horn Rapids was the best fit for our needs," he said.
The company, which has about 45 employees in the Tri-Cities, plans to hire six more workers.
Rail has been a real selling point at the 1,700-acre park, which is zoned industrial to support manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, said Gary Ballew, city economic development manager. The city has sold almost 90 percent of the 700 acres developed with roads and utilities.
"We are trying to fill out the interior of the park before expanding westward," he said.
In November, the city agreed to sell about 28 acres to Henningsen Cold Storage Co., one of the largest public refrigerated warehousing companies in North America. Its national warehouse network exceeds 42 million cubic feet of storage.
Henningsen already operates a 204,000-square-foot facility at the Port of Benton's Richland Airport.
"We are out of space at our current Richland location," said Paul G. Henningsen Jr., vice president of corporate development and engineering, based in Hillsboro, Ore. "We would like to have some land available for future needs." Rail access is critical, he said.
Shovel-ready ground in a planned industrial zone can attract new businesses or those looking to expand, said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council. And the availability of rail adds to a site's appeal, he said, because both manufacturers and distributors need an efficient way to transport raw materials and finished products.
But the key to marketing large industrial tracts -- whether owned by cities, ports or private parties -- is to focus on target industries and work in partnership, Adrian said.
Richland is following a similar approach, Ballew said. The city works closely with the Port of Benton, which owns a 760-acre manufacturing mall next to Horn Rapids Industrial Park and shares potential leads to explore, he said.
The city would like to see new projects at Horn Rapids, he said. But construction of a new facility in any industrial zone within the Tri-Cities adds to local property tax rolls and potentially creates new jobs with good pay to boost the local economy, particularly in retail, Ballew said.
There's no competition between the port and the city, said Diahann Howard, the port's director of economic development and government affairs.
"We serve different customers," she said. The city's focus is on those interested in buying land, while the port's is on those looking to lease, Howard said.
The port-owned, 16-mile rail track from Horn Rapids Road to the Columbia Center junction serves businesses in the park and the manufacturing mall, she said. The short-line, leased to Tri-City & Olympia Railroad Co., is served by BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad. To be able to choose between two major railways is an added bonus, she said.
In 2008, the Port of Benton built a$1.5 million freight transloading facility on land the port bought from the city. Richland contributed $200,000 to the project. The 7,200-square-foot facility provides climate-controlled storage with access to the rail loop for loading and unloading.
Premium built-up warehousing space is hard to find in the Tri-Cities, said Sam Good, director of properties and development at the Port of Pasco. Most of the port's buildings already are leased, said Good, who has been getting a lot of phone calls for warehouse space. Anecdotal evidence suggests that despite a slowdown in demand, many producers haven't cut production, preferring to store goods until demand picks up, she said.
Good said she also has had a few inquiries -- but no offers -- on the port's last available tract at the Pasco Processing Center, a 250-acre food processing park along Highway 395 with rail access. She thinks few businesses want to construct their own buildings, especially when financing is tight.
But the public agencies responsible for promoting economic development must always be ready, said Jim Toomey, executive director of the Port of Pasco. And that process starts with assessing the area's industrial needs and filling any gaps, he said.
That's what led the port to invest about $700,000 to install 1,000 feet of rail on Heritage Industrial Center, a 400-acre site, mostly privately owned, on the south side of East A Street, near Highway 12.
The public track will be a link to BNSF's main line and can help recruit manufacturers, said Randy Hayden, director of planning and engineering at the Port of Pasco. It opens up large pieces of land to multiple uses, he said.
Generally, rail companies find it easier to expand in an area they already serve, he said. The port worked with the city, BNSF and private landowners on the project. It was paid for with sales tax revenues devoted to promoting development in rural counties, Hayden said.
-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com