Spokane Journal of Business

Deer Park business park clears key funding hurdle

City approves bond to help fund launch of first phase

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The first phase of a long-envisioned Deer Park Business & Industrial Center project finally is moving forward after the Deer Park City Council approved a $1.3 million local improvement district bond last month.

Bob Lee, owner of Deer Park-based Centennial Commercial Property Northwest LLC and a member of the Deer Park Chamber of Commerce’s economic development committee, says the city is hoping to break ground on the project by August.

A stipulation of a federal grant the city secured in August 2012 is that construction must begin by that time. However, Joe Tortorelli, an economic consultant for the city of Deer Park, about 15 miles north of Spokane, says that recently the city has been told the deadline might be relaxed. 

“They’ve since told us that even if it slips a little bit, they’ll still go through with it,” Tortorelli says.

Located adjacent to the current intersection of Cedar and Crawford roads, the first phase of the industrial park is expected to include 140 acres of land, which will be divided into 14 parcels. The park could end up encompassing as much as 400 acres of zoned land. 

The improvement district bond plus $500,000 from the Washington state Transportation Improvement Board and $100,000 of city funds will make up the city’s match to the $1.8 million Federal Economic Development Administration grant. 

The LID bond is being paid by the five property owners with land on which the first phase will be developed. They had donated the right-of-way land for a road and other infrastructure improvements that will serve the park. 

Now that the bond has passed, the city has set a hearing to finalize it on Jan. 22; anyone who wishes to oppose the bond will need to file objections before that date. 

After the hearing, the project will go to J-U-B Engineers Inc., of Spokane, for final planning and updates, says Robert Whisman, mayor of Deer Park. 

At the city council meeting, Avista Corp. announced its intention to buy property in the business park to build a service center, Tortorelli says. He says the company has looked at several 10-acre parcels there, but hasn’t entered into any agreements yet. 

Another potential tenant, he says, will be Knight Construction & Supply Inc., of Deer Park, who Tortorelli says is planning to build a second facility in the park, possibly on a 14-acre parcel.   

“We’ve been working on this project for about five years,” Tortorelli says. “The city has gone back and forth trying to put together a plan, as well as getting tenants.”

Lee says that the TIB funds were the final key to move the project forward. 

Prior to obtaining that money, the city had been planning to use money from the state Public Works Trust Fund for its portion of the match, Lee says. However, he says, just over a year ago the state Legislature decided not to approve the city’s request for the funds. 

“That was a huge slam,” Lee says. 

Fortunately, the city was able to secure the grant from the TIB to continue with the project. 

Whisman says the project has been a priority for him for almost all of the eight years he’s been in office. However, he says, the call for such a business park started much earlier. 

“After we had the planning process going, a couple years into it, we discovered a letter written to the mayor in 1977 from the Chamber of Commerce, pushing for this exact project,” he says. “Can you even imagine where Deer Park would be at today if they’d done this 30 years ago?”

One of the goals of the business park project is to bring more jobs to the Deer Park area. Lee says a year ago, the committee sent out a survey with the water utility bill to Deer Park residents, asking them what they thought about economic development in the area and what they liked or didn’t like about the community. 

“Overwhelmingly, the numbers showed people wanted to see more economic growth, more shopping, more jobs,” Lee says. 

He says one of the big issues in Deer Park is the lack of jobs for young adults who are returning from college or graduating high school. The business park, he says, will hopefully improve those numbers by adding jobs and improving the local economy.  

“This is the best opportunity the city of Deer Park has had in over 30 years to really have some prosperous growth,” Lee says. 

Tortorelli says that he generally estimates that employment numbers for the business park could be about four employees per acre. With 140 acres planned for the first phase, that phase alone could lead to more than 500 jobs. 

“The original projection for the first two tenants was about 60 jobs,” he says. 

Whisman says that the park hopefully will lead to more business for the adjacent Deer Park Airport. 

“It will open up the possibility of airport business,” Whisman says. 

Lee says he believes the industrial park is on some of the lowest-cost industrial land in Spokane County. This is mostly because the land is ready to be built on immediately, he says. 

“There’s really nothing that needs to be done to make those lots buildable,” he says. “We’re estimating a cost of $20,000 to $25,000 an acre. Elsewhere in the county it’s $35,000 to $40,000. Then you also have to go in and improve the land.”

For the immediate future, Lee says, the project’s next steps involve marketing the land to businesses. 

A challenge going forward, he says, will be promoting the business park and attracting clients while still maintaining the city’s small-town feel. 

“One of the things the survey identified is the citizens want to see growth, but one of the things they want to preserve is the small-town quality of life,” he says. “Certainly as things progress, you want to get the best of both worlds.”

Katie Ross
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Reporter Katie Ross covers manufacturing, hospitality, and government at the Journal of Business. An outdoor enthusiast and snowboard fanatic, Katie is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University.  

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