Spokane Journal of Business

$400 million in new projects targeted in grant awards

Three developments cited could generate 620 jobs

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Three potential projects here could generate more than $400 million in capital investments and lead to the creation of 620 manufacturing and distribution jobs, according to data released with recent Washington state Department of Commerce grant awards. 

The state agency has awarded a total of $385,000 to Spokane Valley, Spokane County, and Pend Oreille County to help with environmental review and permitting processes for the proposed projects.

The envisioned living-wage job generators include a heavy manufacturing facility in Spokane Valley, an aerospace manufacturing and distribution plant near Spokane International Airport, and a smelter in Usk.

The grants must be spent by June 30, says Dave Andersen, the Spokane-based eastern regional manager for the department’s growth management division.

The Department of Commerce awarded Pend Oreille County the maximum grant amount of $250,000 to fund a number of programs to address environmental, community outreach, and cultural concerns regarding the proposed silicon smelter in Usk, about 50 miles north of Spokane.

As earlier reported in the Journal, Edmonton, Alberta-based HiTest Sands Inc. proposes to develop a $300 million silicon smelter on an 84-acre portion of the Ponderay Newsprint Co. paper mill property.

The smelter could generate 170 permanent full-time jobs.

The grant application shows two potential smelter sites east and southeast of the mill toward the Pend Oreille River.

Pend Oreille County has committed a $100,000 match to the grant funds, Andersen says.

The Department of Commerce awarded its second largest grant of $114,200 to the city of Spokane Valley to streamline the process for environmental permitting in the city’s 840-acre northeast industrial area.

Within that area, a 40-acre site is being considered for a heavy manufacturing facility that would have about 150 employees, the award announcement from the Department of Commerce says. The facility would include 110,000 square feet of production space, 115,000 square feet of storage space, a new rail spur, and parking to accommodate business operations.

John Hohman, community development director for the city of Spokane Valley, says a local recruitment team is actively pursuing the manufacturer.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss specifics,” Hohman says.

The city will use the grant funds to develop a planned action ordinance, which will include environmental analysis of the northeast industrial area, 533 acres of which are underdeveloped, he asserts.

“We will do environmental permitting review up front,” Hohman says. “A development proponent will only have to come up with building permit application, and no other analysis would be required.”

The grant application only describes the company that’s being recruited as a heavy manufacturer of transportation equipment, and it says the city has committed to a nondisclosure agreement in regard to identifying the manufacturer.

The grant application asserts the project would include a $15.8 million investment in construction and related activity, and, once in operation, the plant would generate annual sales of $27 million to $41 million and an annual income of $5 million to $9 million.

Most of the envisioned manufacturing site, which fronts the east side of Barker Road and abuts the north side of the Union Pacific Corp. rail line, is owned by Inland Empire Land Co., a subsidiary of Cowles Co., of Spokane, which owns the Journal of Business.

Doug Yost, director of real estate investments for Centennial Real Estate Investments, another Cowles Co. subsidiary, also declines to discuss the manufacturer.

“We’re actively evaluating the property, especially the property along the railroad line,” Yost says. “We’re trying to look at what would be the best use. It looks like the best use would be industrial out there.”

In a letter supporting the grant application, Yost wrote that Spokane Valley will use the funds to develop a “predictable and expedited permitting process for a large manufacturing industry we are in the process of recruiting.”

The permitting process will add the same level of predictability for other lands owned by Cowles Co. subsidiaries and other properties in the northeast industrial area, the letter states.

Spokane Valley will provide a $55,000 match for the grant.

A $20,800 grant awarded to Spokane County is intended to assist another potential 40-acre manufacturing development referred to as Project Eagle.

The Spokesman-Review reported in a story published Tuesday that Project Eagle is the code name for a Boston-based company looking to manufacture a supersonic jet.

The company, Spike Aerospace is designing the 18-passenger jet that could cruise at about 1,200 mph, the S-R story says.

Spokane is one of several sites, the company is considering for its manufacturing site, the story says.

The Commerce grant would fund a comprehensive environmental analysis required in a separate application to the Federal Aviation Administration to approve what’s called a categorical exclusion. The exclusion would allow Spokane International Airport to sell up to 634 acres it has identified as non-aeronautical, the county’s application says.

Most immediately, Spokane International Airport wants to sell 40 acres of land where Project Eagle would be developed, near the Interstate 90-Geiger Boulevard interchange.

The grant application says the out-of-state aerospace manufacturer and distributor that would develop a $90.5 million, 305,000-square-foot plant with the capacity to expand operations by another 150,000 square feet.

The plant’s staff would include 100 engineers and 200 technicians, the application says.

The airport has pledged a $48,200 match.

In a letter of support for the county’s application, Spokane International Airport CEO Larry Krauter stated the manufacturing company would use the Spokane site to manufacture component parts and distribute them to customers in 17 states.

In another letter of support for the county’s grant request, Todd Mielke, CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated, wrote, “With over 120 companies employing more than 12,000 workers in aerospace-related jobs (in the Spokane region), this type of new investment will greatly enhance available opportunity for our current supply chain companies’ growth.”

Mielke couldn’t be reached immediately for further comment.

The Department of Commerce was authorized to award up to $500,000 for environmental review assistance grants through an allocation from the Legislature.

Commerce received applications for nine projects totaling nearly $1 million.

Two city of Spokane applications didn’t make the cut.

In one application, the city requested $200,000 to develop a planned action ordinance to assist environmental permitting in a 160-acre area of the University District.

In the other application, the city requested a $50,000 grant to go toward a stormwater survey in northeast Spokane.

“It’s not that they weren’t good projects,” Andersen says. “We had to rank them.”

Mike McLean
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Reporter Mike McLean covers real estate and construction at the Journal of Business. A multipurpose fisherman and vintage record album aficionado, Mike has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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