The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
Later this morning I am heading to a meeting in Moxee to lay the groundwork for a new intersection on State Route 24. A new road corridor linking to the highway may not sound glamorous but it is a key ingredient towards supporting future economic growth in Yakima County. As the highway unfolds between Yakima and Moxee it bisects hundreds of acres of light industrial property.
These large blocks of land are becoming more important, especially when other industrial properties in the Yakima urban area are being developed or rezoned for commercial development. Union Gap's industrial sites are being rezoned for Costco, Bud Clary Motors and others. Yakima’s new zoning policies make it more difficult to develop light industrial facilities at the former mill site (which is the City’s largest undeveloped site).
There are other sites in Union Gap and Yakima that can support manufacturers and other businesses needing light industrial property, but they are somewhat limited. Many sites are too small, while others are too far from public utilities or the Interstate. Sites that can serve rail customers are almost impossible to find.
Our office knows from experience that the Yakima urban area needs to plan for and protect industrial properties. Newer companies to the region like Graham Packaging, Macro Plastics, and Alexandria Molding were drawn to the Valley for many reasons but they all had to find suitable sites to support their plants. Expanding companies like Ace Hardware and Pexco (formerly Bunzl Extrusion) obviously need industrial property as well.
If we can develop a new interchange on State Route 24, we are preparing new ground for industry. Land both north and south of the proposed intersection is suitable for light industrial development but lacks access points to the highway. Designing a new interchange is a first step, but it must then be complemented by building a road network that punches through these undeveloped sites.
Water lines must also be extended along the highway corridor before development can take hold. Civil engineers tell me it will take several million dollars and a few years to prime development along State Route 24. The steps we take now on this project are important. Suitable light industrial sites underpin the region’s economic future and our preparatory steps will ultimately be rewarded when new or existing companies find the sites they need to expand.