Groundbreaking Held for Tenino’s Southwest Washington Agricultural Business Park


A Tenino-based project intended to help the stability of the local food chain is now underway. 

Ground broke on the Southwest Washington Agricultural Business Park Tuesday in Tenino, with members from local and state agencies in attendance. The project is spearheaded by Aslan Meade, the director of Strategic Alliances for the Thurston Economic Development Council. 

Port of Olympia Commissioner Joe Downing, Washington House Republican Leader and 2nd District Representative J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier and SCJ Alliance Consulting Services PE Senior Principal Perry Shea are also involved in the project. 

According to Meade, the Southwest Washington Agriculture Business Park could house anything from food products being made using local resources, craft brewing facilities and even tasting rooms where products could be sampled. 

“It could be an agri-tourism destination, where people could come out into the rural community and have a taste of the food and drink of the area,” Meade said. “We could also have business services on the site. … We’re working on supporting this entire industry. This is one project we’re working on to support regional agriculture.” 

He added the project will be constructed one building at a time, so the variety of services the park could offer remains to be seen. 

“The idea is there can be multiple tenants,” Meade said. “If there can be connections and synergies amongst the businesses then more power to them. We can support the whole industry in some ways.” 

The project is slated to sit on a 13-acre parcel of land owned by the City of Tenino near Miles Sand & Gravel. During the ceremony, Mayor Fournier took the time to stress the importance of cultivating the local farm industry. 

“I want to thank the people of Tenino and the Tenino City Council for supporting this project over the last couple of years,” Fournier said. “It’s very important that we support our local farmers and farmland so they can remain farmland.”

Meade said that four-and-a-half years ago, at the beginning of the process, Fournier showed him all the various pieces of land in the area that could be utilized for the purpose of agricultural services. 

At that time, Meade said they shared the vision for a Southwest Washington Agricultural Business Park when Fournier described his idea for an agricultural industrial park. 

“I was already working on the concept of an agricultural business center, where you’d have concentrated services all under one roof to serve ag businesses,” Meade said. “Those two ideas merged.” 

The two originally tried to build the project on a privately-owned parcel of land before deciding on land owned by the City of Tenino. The location of the latter parcel was closer to the city wastewater, sewer and electric plants, so Meade said the location that was ultimately decided on made more sense for the project.

The City of Tenino is currently leasing the land to the Thurston Economic Development Council for $10 a year. Meade also made a point to mention the work done by partners such as the Washington State University Extension Program and the Northwest Agricultural Business Center. 

“There’s just been an extraordinary amount of partners,” Meade said. “Hundreds of partners, probably, have been involved in this project at one time or another.” 

Rep. Wilcox got introduced to the project when Meade tried to get his feedback on the idea. At that point, he says, Rep. Wilcox helped assist the project in the legislature. 

He stressed the importance of helping to rebuild the rural economy in Western Washington. 

“I think it’s perfectly appropriate that the state of Washington and our county and port governments are part making it a little more possible for private enterprise to come back to the rural economy,” Rep. Wilcox said. “So that we can feed our people from our own resources here in Western Washington.”

The project received $600,000 from the legislature for its water and sewer extension and an additional $1.5 million to go toward the construction of the park’s first building. Additionally, Port of Olympia and USDA Rural Development assisted with funding. 

“It’s a green project, meaning it’s got to do with farmers, it’s got to do with economic development, it’s got to do with job creation,” Downing said. “We’re really moving forward on this and really, economic development takes time — it doesn’t take a week, it doesn’t take a month, many times it takes years. The port is so happy to be a part of this.” 

Meade said while the project had been in the works well before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the issues surrounding the food chain during the event provided some perspective and helped shine a light on the importance of local food.

“For those of us who believe in local food, this is something we’ve been preaching for years,” Meade said. “COVID just kind of helps other people to realize we need to be growing more food in our region for local consumption.”