Port of Centralia

Port of Centralia Executive Director Kyle Heaton summarizes a report on the financials of the port for 2018 during a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The Port of Centralia enjoyed a successful 2018 calendar year that saw its net position grow by about 9.5 percent to $23.98 million when accounting for its total assets and liabilities, according to an audit performed by Hanford and Associates and presented Wednesday during a meeting of the Port Commissioners.

Kyle Heaton, executive director of the Port of Centralia, credited the bump in part to the timing of some lease agreements. Other factors mentioned in the audit were the sale of capital assets and the addition of an Industrial Development District tax levy. Heaton and port officials took advantage of their financial position to retire more than $2.8 million in debt during 2018.

“It’s always good to be over budget when it comes to revenues,” Heaton said. “We’ve taken an aggressive line in paying down our debts and that’s going to be something that continues.”

Ongoing construction of the $100 million United Natural Foods Inc. warehouse at the Port did not have a major impact on the 2018 financials, according to Heaton, because most of its transactions related to that property took place prior to that year.

The massive warehouse is expected to open July 1 and bring more than 350 jobs to the area. Heaton said Wednesday that contractors are currently working to finish the cold storage facility and some paving around the facility. Trucks are only allowed to enter and exit the project off Galvin Road for the time being, though that traffic situation should be resolved in the near future, Heaton said.

The audit lists five in-progress construction projects at the port totaling about $3.6 million in current value and $9.6 million in remaining commitments. Major capital expenditures anticipated in the next year include improvements to the stormwater system at Centralia Station, purchases of property for Centralia Station and work on the Interstate 5/Mellen Street Connector Project.

Tom O’Keefe, the developer spearheading construction of the UNFI distribution center, expressed his interest earlier this year in starting one or two additional, smaller projects at the Port of Centralia, according to previous reporting by The Chronicle. That means buildings ranging from 200,000 to 500,000 square feet in size.

Heaton anticipates a slight hit to the bottom line caused by the closure of The Chronicle’s print facility. He doesn’t plan to put the property on the market for at least 60 days, which could lead to it being vacant as the commercial property market slows during the fall and winter months.

“When it’s all said and done, 2019 should be a good year for us,” Heaton said. “If a couple of pending transactions go through, it could become a very good year.”

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