By Sean Bassinger
Expanded job growth, a multi-million dollar airport remodeling project and additional commercial retail developments are among the year’s top accomplishments cited by Tri-City port officals.
Port officials say they hope to continue to draw more businesses and increase tourism as they move into 2017.
Here’s a roundup of their economic development highlights in 2016.
Port of Benton
The Port of Benton recently received a large federal land transfer. Of the 1,341 acres received for the city of Richland, about 760 will go to the Port of Benton, said Diahann Howard, director of economic development for the Port of Benton.
The port receives about $2.3 million in taxes each year, which is used for critical community projects, she said.
This year, the port has invested more into the Richland and Prosser airports. The Richland airport will see about $4 million in improvements for 2017.
“They’re going to be doing existing maintenance on the existing runway,” she said.
The Port of Benton also will update the master plan for Prosser’s airport in the next couple of years, Howard said.
The port-managed Crow Butte State Park, located off Highway 14 west of Paterson on the Columbia River, will see several expansions in the next year. This year, the port invested $250,000 in playground equipment.
Port officials plan $850,000 in improvements at the docks and marina at the island park, Howard said.
“We’ve seen a lot of use and a lot of success there,” she said.
Port of Pasco
The Tri-Cities Airport is looking to wrap up part of a 2 1/2-year, $41.9 million airport expansion.
“Being able to bring this new airport into the community is really exciting,” said Gary Ballew, director of economic development and marketing for the Port of Pasco.
Airport and Port of Pasco officials say the expansion was needed to accommodate an increase of passengers in the past two years. In 2015 about 250,000 passengers came through the airport.
The expansion includes the addition of new concourses, remodeled ticketing counters and relocation of Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, screening areas.
Another area that saw continued success in 2016 was growth at the Foster Wells Business Center off Highway 395, Ballew said. Sixty-three acres were divided into 12 building sites suited for manufacturing, packaging, distribution and goods and services providers. The area is located in the northwest corner of the Pasco Processing Center.
The Port of Pasco also wants to increase opportunities for recreational activities such as wine tasting.
“The ability to bring business people in creates new investments in the community and creates new jobs,” Ballew said.
Working side-by-side with the city of Pasco, Franklin County and several other partners, the port will continue work on the Greater Pasco Area Economic Strategic Vision, a long-term plan addressing the next 20 years of community growth.
This will involve the Port of Pasco and the city assessing their present economy while working with Tri-City regional officials. Port and city officials also will look at external markets throughout the Northwest and U.S., Ballew said.
“There’s always a lot of work that goes into each one of those successes,” Ballew said. “It’s more of a factor versus time.”
Other future goals include searching for ways to involve more community members who may not be able to attend all public meetings and enhance bilingual communications since 55 precent of the city’s population is Latino.
“That’s really the future of our community,” Ballew said.
Port of Kennewick
Port of Kennewick officials continue to work on a new wine gardens project following a groundbreaking that took place in 2016. (See story on front page)
Phase one of the project totaled about $1.2 million from the port, with the city of Kennewick investing another $3.4 million in the first three or four buildings in the area, said Skip Novakovich, president, Port of Kennewick Board of Commissioners.
Columbia Basin College’s future 20,000-square-foot culinary school, which will sit along the waterfront of the Columbia River, will be another point of pride for the Port of Kennewick and city when it gets built, Novokavich said.
The $10 million facility will have three kitchens, event space and a student-run restaurant. Officials are now trying to figure out how to finance the joint project.
Spaulding Business Park welcomed more tenants as well. The Port of Kennewick recently sold land to Northwest Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine for a 36,000-square-foot medical facility with 16 orthopaedic suites set to open next year.
The business center, located between Highway 240 and Columbia Center Boulevard, is nearly complete, Novokavich said.
Also in the center is a new 6,000-square-foot Support, Advocacy and Resource Center, or SARC, facility that employs about 10 new staff members with salaries of about $50,000 a year.
The 30-acre Spaulding Park was a $37 million investment in the private sector, with more than 200,000 square feet of buildings. They’ve provided more than 425 professional jobs to date, Novokavich said.
There’s one space left to sell in the Spaulding Park development, which has taken time to reach its potential, Novokavich added. Meanwhile, he believes the new Vista Field development is going to be greatest success story the port has ever seen.
“It’ll be huge,” he said. “But again, it’s going to take time.”
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