Mayor Shane Bemis calls Port of Portlands purchase of former LSI site a big win for local economic development

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber speaks at the Economic Summit at Persimmon Country Club on Thursday morning.

More than 200 local business owners and community representatives, as well as a smattering of elected officials, gathered Thursday, Oct. 4, to discuss “Building Economic Vitality, Our State, Our Region” during the 13th annual Economic Summit at Persimmon Country Club in Gresham.

The event was presented by the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, in partnership with Boeing, and was highlighted by a keynote address from Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. It was the second consecutive year the event had sold out.

Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis opened the summit by briefing those in attendance on what he called “major economic development wins” over the past year. Headlining the city’s good economic news, Bemis said, was Boeing’s recently unveiled plating facility expansion. The 66,000-square-foot facility, formally opened in August, involved a $200 million investment by Boeing that eventually will include 350 new jobs.

Bemis also praised the Port of Portland for its partnership with the city by purchasing the 220-acre parcel that was formerly the home of LSI, and later, ON Semiconductor.

“In a single transaction, this prime industrial land went from being managed by a relatively disinterested seller into the hands of a high motivated, very nimble and very strategic developer,” Bemis said. “In the short time since the Port has owned this parcel…we have together pursued seven leads, some of them incredibly large. We will not rest until we see tremendous investment and job growth on this site, and we are extremely optimistic, even in these challenging times.”

The parcel on Northeast Glisan Street and 234th Avenue was purchased by the Port for $27 million last year. It has been renamed Gresham Vista Business Park and is considered a “tier one” parcel for its “shovel-ready” condition for development.

“This is a perfect marriage between the city and the Port to expedite business recruitment,” said Keith Leavitt, general manager of real estate property with the Port of Portland. “We are looking for manufacturers and companies with good trade sector jobs and those who can become suppliers to businesses in the area.”

Leavitt cited redevelopment of the former Reynolds Aluminum facility in Troutdale as a clear example of how enterprise zones, city leaders and the Port can work together to create a thriving business environment.

The Port purchased the Reynolds Aluminum property in 2007, investing nearly $40 million partially due to the 700-acre site’s designation as a “superfund/brownfield” redevelopment project. Now known as the Troutdale Reynolds Business Park, the area is home to a ground hub for FedEx, and the hunt is on for additional tenants.

“We are very engaged in dialog right now with developers, economic development professionals and city leaders,” Leavitt said. “We know successful development will not happen without partnerships. Working with the cities is the key to our success.”

Kitzhaber said the “ingenuity, resilience and entrepreneurial spirit” of Oregonians have been “inspiring,” given a slowly sputtering economy and lethargic job growth rate. Gresham and Troutdale’s alliance with the Port for future enterprise zone developments plays well into the governor’s plans for shoring up the state’s economy.

“We need to redouble our effort to create family-wage jobs, which will produce a robust economy,” Kitzhaber said. “To me, economic recovery is going back to where we were. I think it’s more about economic reinvention. We are creating an environment where business can thrive and expand, but we need to do more.”

Kitzhaber said “economic reinvention” involves investors, developers and others who can establish partnerships to purchase and market land that is ready for development. If businesses have a place to locate, they bring jobs, which supports the local economy.

The governor also said a trained workforce is paramount to reducing unemployment and boosting Oregon’s ability to compete on a global level.

“It’s very clear if we want to succeed with job recruitment, we have to protect our educational system,” Kitzhaber said.

For information on next year’s summit, call the chamber at 503-665-1131.

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