Composites manufacturer, Bitcoin processor both look to Port of St. Helens for new business space

Two new businesses are likely to set up shop in Columbia County, including a Bitcoin mining operation.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Port of St. Helens Commissioners Chris Iverson and Mike Avent hash out the benefits and risks associated with new lease agreements during a Port board of commissioners meeting Wednesday, March 14.Port of St. Helens commissioners approved lease agreements for Precision Composites Technologies, a small operation looking to grow, in a Port-owned building on Northeast Airport Road in Scappoose.

"Just like Composites Universal, they're similar," Paula Miranda, the Port's deputy executive director, told commissioners of Precision Composites.

"In fact, this used to be a former employee of Composites Universal. They're not competitors, is my understanding."

The company already operates in Scappoose, but its leasehold on the site ran out when the owner needed the property back for personal use.

Miranda said Precision Composites requested an immediate move-in.

"We ran a background on the company, they seem to be doing OK," she noted.

"They only have two employees at the moment. They're looking to have three or four. They're trying to grow."

"I don't want to stifle business if the tenant is ready to go," Commissioner Chris Iverson said, paving the way for a 4-0 vote to approve a lease with Precision Composites. Commissioner Larry Ericksen was absent.

Precision Composites isn't the only start-up business looking to lay roots in the county. With Oregon's cheap energy costs and the availability of an old vacant farmhouse-type building in Warren, BitX, a crypto currency mining company, looks to use the rustic building on Old Portland Road as a small data center with computers, presumably set up to process Bitcoin or similar currency transactions.

Commissioners were less clear about the longevity of BitX, given the volatility and mystery surrounding the crypto currency industry.SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - The former Winner Circle building on Old Portland Road in Warren is the prospective site of a new crypto currency operation in Columbia County. The site, owned by the Port of St. Helens, has sat vacant for years.

"It's basically just a bunch of computers running," Miranda told commissioners. "I'm still trying to figure out how that all works, quite frankly. It's basically just a use of electricity."

Port staff said the company would be occupying the former Winner Circle building in Warren. At first glance, the building looks like a vacant barn-style building amid a picturesque field — not the vision one gets for a high tech web-based operation. Miranda said the tenant will likely need a larger power load fed to the site by Columbia River People's Utility District to accommodate the use of several computers.

Miranda said she's still waiting for financial statements from the company and the PUD would need to survey the site.

BitX would pay for all needed electrical upgrades.

"That site has been empty for quite some time," Miranda noted. "It's difficult because we didn't have sewer connection or water connection. Way back when the customer built that building, not all permits were finalized, so we're working on that."

Commissioners agreed that if the right utilities can be brought in at no cost to the Port, the lease should be approved.

"My read on this is just like [Miranda] said, we haven't had anybody in that building for years," Commissioner Iverson said.

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