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.
Yakima County's Supporting Investments in Economic Development (SIED) Board gave its nod of approval to a $500,000 request from the city of Yakima to complete design and engineering work at the former Boise Cascade mill site. These funds will allow Yakima to pinpoint the size, cost, and location of roads and public utilities at the 200+ acre site. The city expects to hire a consultant to do this work by January and they hope to have this part of the redevelopment effort completed by early 2012.
Two years ago, the city of Yakima received a special LIFT designation from Washington state to help underwrite public improvements needed at the site. LIFT provides the city approximately $25 million in state matching funds to cover costs of key roads and utilities at the site. Under the program, the state also allows Yakima to keep up to $25 million in additional taxes that are generated by local growth.
The mill redevelopment project still needed SIED help despite the large LIFT financing commitments. While LIFT can cover design and engineering costs related to the mill redevelopment, Yakima cannot effectively tap these funds for another 12-18 months. SIED funds will help the city complete key predevelopment activities now so that key infrastructure projects at the site are ready for construction by the time LIFT bonds are ready for issuance in 2012.
Redeveloping the former sawmill site is a high priority for the entire region. The site is one of the last large undeveloped blocks of commercial property along Interstate 82. The site serves as the Valley's visual gateway to the region so many people hope that a purposeful redevelopment of the mill area can positively shape our community's image for decades to come. Earlier studies also indicate the mill site could support thousands of new jobs as the site captures a mix of commercial and industrial tenants.
Our hats are off to city, Yakima County, and the SIED Board. These parties worked together to help move the mill redevelopment project forward immediately. This type of cooperation is helping keep the mill redevelopment project on the front burner. The mill site's ownership team is also collaborating with Yakima to start permitting activities that underpin private development at the site. We are encouraged by the progress being made and the partnerships that are keeping this important project moving forward.