With funding fully secured, the City of Tenino and the Thurston Economic Development Council are hoping to start construction on the long-awaited Southwest Washington Agricultural Business and Innovation Park early next year.
At a July 14 meeting, the city council approved an ordinance allowing the city to pursue a $1.75 million bond to build the highly-anticipated business park.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be roughly $4 million and will be covered by the bond, state grants and other city funds, according to agenda documents. The campus will be built along Old Highway 99, on a property located across from the former alpaca farm.
The city will repay the 20-year bond with a fixed interest rate of 3.15% and is allowed to only draw what it needs, paving the way for possible savings on the city’s end.
Mayor Wayne Fournier said the city anticipates spending $12,000 monthly to repay the funds. It makes sense financially, he said, since leasing businesses will be bringing in at least $20,000 a month when they move in next year — and that’s not including business and operation taxes.
The plan is to have the first of multiple buildings finished next year.
“It makes financial sense for the city and it’s also a great economic opportunity,” he said. “It will provide jobs, invigorate the local economy and support local agriculture.”
In concept, the new business park is expected to be a regional resource anchored by businesses and two educational institutions, Washington State University and Centralia College, according to the city’s website. It will serve as a long-term hub for ag and rural business, add hundreds of local jobs, and increase regional production and the value of food-related processing, manufacturing and packaging, according to backers.
Fournier said the campus, which will be similar in vision to a small port, should go out to bid and start construction early next year, and go online in late 2022.
“Since conception, the really exciting thing is that we have three tenants who are ready to sign a letter of commitment to be at the park and allow for these processes to get started, and we’re working on a whole ‘other building,” said Aslan Meade, director of strategic alliances with Thurston EDC, adding: “It will be (about) embedding some of these workforce training and business technical services in the rural population.”
Meade said they’ve already invested about $600,000 to extend the city’s sewer and water infrastructure to the site.
He also said there has been a lot of local business leadership leading this charge. He expects the businesses that use the space to be local.
“It’s like there’s this commitment to take Tenino to a new level,” he said.
Meade said the idea originally stemmed from a 2012 industries cluster study that identified food production as the top employer in the south Thurston County area. This project, he said, has been a partnership with the City of Tenino from the start.
Questions started arising as to how to grow the economy and support agriculture, and the business park was identified as a possible solution to house multiple different jurisdictions, programs and businesses to do just that.
Thurston EDC Executive Director Michael Cade said securing the final funding for the project is a significant development.
“It was really a phenomenal vision of partners that work together in that part of the economy,” he said, describing the cooperative nature of work. “We’ll recruit businesses and industries there, we’ll work with our partners to make sure there’s every opportunity for workforce training and a variety of other things.”
Meade said surveying work is complete and they’re in the design phase of the project.