Jeanette Thompson, and her grandson, Bryce Thompson, pose with fuel bricks and bags of pellets. Mark Bogart photo
Board gives nod to county purchase of ‘shovel-ready’ lot in Baum Industrial Park
The Union County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to go ahead with a plan to acquire a 60-acre parcel of large-lot industrial land in the Baum Heavy Industrial Park in Island City.
By a unanimous vote, the board approved a resolution that allows the county to borrow $445,000 from the Oregon Special Public Works Fund, and another $300,000 from the Union County Economic Development Corporation. The money will be used to purchase the parcel in the Baum park currently owned by Bob Hendra of Singapore.
The land, according to county and UCEDC officials, is “shovel-ready,” meaning that it can be developed quickly for use by a manufacturer wanting to locate in Union County. Little or no such land is available in the county now.
“This is an important piece of property,” UCEDC Executive Director Dan Stark told the county board during Tuesday’s meeting. “I think it’s a good deal and we should go forward with it.”
UCEDC is a private, non-profit corporation that works to foster economic growth in Union County, and often partners with local government to further the effort. But because UCEDC is a private entity, it does not qualify for a loan from the state’s public works funds. The fund is for public entities only.
Currently the UCED is on an intensive business recruiting campaign, hoping to attract manufacturing companies that provide family wage jobs. Stark has said the campaign targets manufacturers of wood products, machinery, transportation equipment, and furniture and related products.
County Commissioner Steve McClure Tuesday that competition among eastern Oregon communities looking to attract businesses is fierce, and a lack of large-lot industrial land puts Union County at a disadvantage.
Job creation is the ultimate goal for the county and UCEDC, McClure said.
“I think this is worth doing,” he said. “I think it’s what we have to do to address an unemployment rate that’s nine, 10 percent.”
Commissioners Bill Rosholt and Mark Davidson said they agreed with McClure. Davidson said the move “builds a case for having more industrial land available.”
“That’s imperative, that we’re proactive about economic development,” Davison said.
The Baum Heavy Industrial park is home to Outdoors RV Manufacturing, the Boise Cascade particleboard plant, Eagle Carriage and Machine, and other businesses. Hendra was once a partner is an effort to develop a bio-diesel plant on the 60 acre parcel. That project was never completed, but the property remains “Tier One” land where site development could begin within 180 days of selection.
County Administrative Officer Shelley Burgess said Tuesday she had received word from the Special Public Works Fund that the county qualifies for the $445,000 loan. The 25-year loan carries an interest rate of 3.76 percent.
Burgess said interest on the $300,000 loan from UCEDC is initially .6 percent and will be capped at 3.76 percent. The interest rate will not go up until the loan from the state is paid.
Burgess said annual debt service will come to $27,480 for the Special Public Works Fund Loan. Interest-only payments to UCEDC will come to $1,800 a year. The county will begin paying off the principal on the UCEDC loan after the Special Public Works Fund loan is re-paid.
Burgess said state video lottery money within the county’s economic development fund will take care of the debt service. Currently, the county gets $125,000 in video lottery revenues. Some of that money is being used to pay off infrastructure improvements at the airport industrial park.
Burgess said that debt will be retired in about seven years.
Burgess also said that because the loan was not anticipated when this year’s budget was finalized, the county can’t proceed with the loan until the board holds a supplemental budget hearing. The hearing scheduled for Nov. 21.
In discussion prior to Tuesday’s vote, UCEDC Vice President Jim Mollerstrom said his organization’s board of directors gave careful consideration to the land purchase proposal before deciding to move forward.
He said he thinks the deal will be of great benefit to Union County.
“We’re looking forward to developing the land and getting some jobs,” Mollerstrom said. “This is a great opportunity to secure large lot industrial land we’ve been missing. It’s an all around, win-win situation for our communities.”