Richland sees green on the north end of town – in the form of clean energy, new jobs and the sale of large parcels as the city works to woo big industry.
The city recently secured a $4 million low-interest loan from the state’s Community Economic Revitalization Board to extend sewer lines in North Horn Rapids Industrial Park. Infrastructure improvements could help land a
$1 billion project by Atlas Agro North America Corp. in Richland.
The Swiss company proposed a zero-carbon fertilizer plant on 150 acres, bringing 160 living-wage jobs. The low-interest loan is being matched by $1 million in local resources.
Atlas Agro also would take advantage of a new tax break intended to lure manufacturers to set up shop in Washington.
To qualify for the tax exemption, a business must create a minimum of 25 living-wage jobs and make improvements valued at $800,000 or more to undeveloped or underdeveloped property. The city’s Targeted Urban Area (TUA) includes Horn Rapids and some of the airport properties.
“The city basically throws in our portion of the tax on the improvements only for 10 years while they still pay for their property taxes,” said Mandy Wallner, economic development manager for the city of Richland.
ATI Inc. will become the first to use this benefit under a massive expansion plan recently announced for Richland with a price tag estimated by city documents at $111 million.
The Dallas-based company has a 25-year presence in the city and plans to double its titanium melter operations, bringing upward of 100 new jobs with its first phase next year. It serves the aerospace and defense industries.
“We appreciate the region’s strong support and are honored to be the city of Richland’s first recipient of the manufacturing property tax exemption,” said ATI board chairman and CEO Bob Wetherbee.
The incentive allows the city to be more competitive in attracting businesses to town.
“This piece of legislation created this opportunity for essentially a local incentive, which our state is known for not having,” Wallner said. “Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Montana and Oregon have been ones that we primarily come up against, and for us to compete and recruit some of these major industrial projects, we have to have some sort of an incentive. This one doesn’t include any state funds, which a lot of times you see or would like to see, but the city got behind putting our portion toward it, and we’re hoping the county also does its portion.”
Richland hopes to offer this benefit to attract other manufacturing companies.
When built, ATI expects to use green energy – in the form of hydroelectric power – to run its newest facility, falling right in line with the city’s partnership with the Port of Benton to promote the Advanced Clean Energy Park, a site that includes large parcels covering 200 acres or more at the north end of the city that has an estimated population of 62,000.
Richland is anxiously awaiting Beef Expansion LLC, doing business as Old Trapper, to begin building on its 20-acre site along First Street and Kingsgate Way, a project that is expected to bring at least 100 jobs with it.
Richland typically expects dirt to start moving within 18 months of issuing a building permit and that window has passed, but the Oregon-based company received an extension to set up a jerky factory in Richland. Future phases could triple the initial job forecast.
Another Oregon-based company is also expanding to Richland, as N.W. Metal Fabricators Inc. looks to add its powder-coating expertise to a five-acre site on Polar Way while keeping metal fabrication at its current spot in Hermiston.
“We chose Richland for a couple of reasons,” said Aaron Karlson, president and owner of N.W. Metal Fabricators. “We are excited about the growth of the Richland and West Richland communities and feel like a powder coating business will be a good fit. We like the proximity to businesses located near the Richland Airport and Hanford site. Other powder-coating facilities are located in Pasco, and we believe there is a need for these services in Richland.”
Karlson said the business had looked at an expansion prior to the pandemic and then put the plans on hold before reaching back out to the city in 2022 to buy 5 acres.
General contractor Hummel Construction will build the 15,000-square-foot facility with a plan to break ground before the end of this year.
“The facility will be capable of small and large projects, as well as high volume manufacturing projects. We’ve designed the building and equipment to be versatile,” Karlson said. The move is expected to bring about a dozen new positions, which is more than a 25% increase over its current workforce.
In addition to commercial growth, Wallner said another major Richland priority is housing.
Wallner said finding “attainable housing,” or workforce housing, is a challenge as such projects mostly rely on private investment from developers who don’t always find the projects profitable.
“I think the dichotomy statewide people are having is, ‘How do you incentivize development to be affordable?’ We’ve had a few opportunities where people have pitched doing affordable housing options, but the city would need to buy the difference. So, you might offset the price by this much, but then in five years it’s not affordable housing,” she said.
Finding what she calls “true gem” projects that will be affordable in perpetuity is key, but right now the city’s solution seems to be apartments.
The number of single-family and multifamily homes built in Richland is down significantly at this point in the year compared to the same period in previous years.
As of the end of August, the city issued 157 permits for single-family homes, compared to 229 for the same period last year, and 268 in 2021.
Multifamily dwellings are back to a level similar to 2021 when five permits were issued. So far, Richland issued three multifamily home permits, compared to 19 at this point last year.
Wallner said homes in Badger Mountain South area are selling at a pace of about one a month. An overall slowdown in residential growth is buoyed by commercial growth within Richland, which recorded 55 new construction permits through August, compared to 44 last year and down slightly from the 59 issued in 2021.
Tenant improvement permits are pacing similar to previous years with 74 issued so far. This helps balance out overall construction numbers at 1,445 permits issued so far through the end of August, compared to 1,455 the previous year during the same period, yet down measurably from the building boom seen in 2021, when 1,629 were issued at this same point in the year.
New apartments are under construction in multiple areas of the city, hoping to fill some of the affordable housing need, including a project on Columbia Park Trail, and a new development called Desert Sky that will result in 227 units.
Cedar and Sage Homes is building an estimated $40 million development of 160 units called The Bradley Apartments along Bradley Boulevard, just south of the luxe multi-unit complex at Park Place that was years in the making.
These apartments will back up to George Washington Way, a main thoroughfare through Richland that’s the focus of the city’s public works department, which is looking to improve the busy street’s safety where it enters the city at Columbia Point Drive and further north, near the Uptown Shopping Center.
The city expects it would cost $16 million to improve downtown Richland connectivity by converting George Washington Way and Jadwin Avenue into one-way streets starting at the George Washington Way-Jadwin intersection north to Symons Street. Traffic would travel north on George Washington and south on Jadwin.
“We’re going to do another public engagement on the couplet, because we did the last one four or five years ago, and that’s long enough to forget about it,” Wallner said. “We want to make sure everybody knows about it.”
Funding is still being worked out, but construction is likely to begin in 2025.
It’s in the same part of town where Richland has studied parking as it relates to central areas like The Parkway.
“As it turns out, there’s enough parking downtown, it’s just in all the wrong places,” Wallner said. “So, we’re kind of trying to figure out how to make some shifts. There’s a consultant we’re working with who helps us put together what those studies look like with a redevelopment slant, seeing if properties are underutilized or not dense enough.”
Richland is also wrapping up a lengthy effort to connect Tapteal Drive with Gage Boulevard, which required property acquisitions from both private and public owners.
Considered a vital project for the best use of current properties and future development on Tapteal, the city expects the $7.5 million Center Parkway North extension to be open to traffic in October 2023.
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