When you think about a local business, one or two trademark ideas or products may instantly spring to mind. But to succeed, organizations often branch out in many unique ways. However they grow, adapt, and thrive, it’s good to have strong roots throughout the community. The Port of Olympia includes their goals clearly in the underlying mission statement: “to create economic opportunities by connecting Thurston County to the world by air, land and sea.”
So while we may initially picture massive ships loading local lumber or the roar of airplanes at the annual Olympic Airshow, the Port’s mission celebrates its “proud history in Thurston County. It serves the community in a wide variety of ways, leading the way for many of the area’s economic development efforts” through work at the New Market Industrial Campus, Marine Terminal, Swantown Marina and Boatworks, and Olympia Regional Airport.
In July 2020, the Port’s Commission approved a lease option agreement with Panattoni Development Inc. to potentially develop almost 200 acres of Tumwater’s New Market Industrial Campus property. The land in question is zoned for commercial, a centralized business park, or light industrial use, and will be optioned for 10 years.
This potential development echoes the key priorities determined through the Port’s Vision 2020 project. “This recent 15-month community-wide engagement process helped identify community priorities for the future,” explains Communications, Marketing, and Outreach Manager Jennie Foglia-Jones. “Top priorities identified in Vision 2050 are the creation of family-wage jobs, and the growth of the manufacturing, logistics, storage, and real estate sectors.”
Real Estate and Business Development Director Allyn Roe is excited about the site’s potential. He explains that under this agreement Panattoni must develop the land within five years or the Port is allowed to open talks with other developers. Panattoni will vet potential clients who wish to develop the acreage and serve as intermediary on such a massive Port-owned parcel. Depending on what is eventually built, local cities, Thurston County, and the State will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual tax revenue and host many new jobs.
Brad Ridgeway is a 21-year veteran firefighter representing the Tumwater Firefighters IAFF Local 2409 labor union. “Our labor position is one of support for economic development that results in, and supports, quality jobs and commerce,” says Ridgeway. “We also value a community that has balance in residential commercial, industrial and recreation spaces. It is important to us that we have a responsible community plan that not only considers the interests of individuals, but also considers overall community safety. For obvious reasons, putting industrial facilities in neighborhoods can be a safety concern. Maintaining separate and accessible zoned areas for such developments is a great way to enforce reasonable buffers from residential areas. The New Market Industrial Campus is exactly the kind of place that I am describing. We believe that it meets the public safety necessities of our community and supports the job growth that our labor organization values.”
The union likes having a dedicated development zone as it is generally low impact on their response load, Ridgeway says. “We would typically expect periodic fire alarm calls, both false and real,” he adds, “but due to the fact that any potential future buildings will be sprinklered and built to the newest fire codes, the risk of fires is minimized greatly. We would expect a typical amount of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) calls for both medical and trauma based off of the size of the workforce. If the entire area was built out, this would still provide less EMS call volume per year than one large state building or apartment complex. Overall, the yield would be increased taxation with minimal workload for our firefighters.”
And with so many businesses and organizations financially impacted by COVID-19, land development brings in much needed funds. “The risks of a large portion of our revenue tied to sales tax was felt severely this spring during the COVID shutdown,” Ridgeway admits. “All of our city’s departments were impacted. Increasing our property tax base is a great way to improve a very reliable source of revenue that would insulate us a bit more from the variability of consumer spending. The potential additional property tax revenue for the city has been projected at an estimated $950,000 per year if the New Market Industrial Campus was built out to capacity. This revenue would be general fund dollars and not only help the fire department, but all agencies in the city.”
Large projects don’t happen overnight and—like the Port’s everyday workload—all require significant juggling. But Roe and the Thurston County Economic Development Council estimate that “any potential future development is estimated to have an economic impact of: 942 jobs, $142 million in labor income, $365 million in total economic production for Thurston County, [and] $12.7 million in State and Local taxes.”
No-one knows what the future may hold but the Port of Olympia’s is trying to ensure Thurston County has a stronger economy in the coming years.