Untapped, and tapped, potential in industrial Tualatin
Tualatin has long been known for its contributions to the "Silicon Forest," the high-tech sector that powers the economy of Washington County.
Lam Research is Tualatin's largest employer. It builds equipment for the semiconductor industry and is one of Intel Corp.'s key suppliers — in fact, it's received Intel's Preferred Quality Supplier Award multiple times.
Other tech companies like Eaton Corp., which manufactures power management equipment and sensors, and Burkson, which develops custom software for multinational businesses, are also prominent employers in Tualatin.
According to Tualatin's economic development manager, Jonathan Taylor, advanced manufacturing remains, by far, Tualatin's largest "industry cluster." Corporate and business services is the second-largest cluster by direct employment. In fact, about three in every 10 people working in Tualatin is employed by a company within one of those two clusters.
But while it's the smallest of the five key industry clusters that Taylor has identified, food and beverage production has been a growing piece of Tualatin's economy.
Five years ago, on the outskirts of Portland's "Beervana," Tualatin had no breweries of its own. The craft beer industry, despite having outposts in nearby Wilsonville, Sherwood, Lake Oswego and Beaverton, appeared to have skipped over Tualatin altogether.
That all changed in spring 2016, when Ancestry Brewing opened its doors at 20585 S.W. 115th Ave. in Tualatin, just off Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood Road.
Ancestry's business plan was ambitious. The nascent brewery took over a 7,200-square-foot space in Tualatin's huge industrial area, some distance from Tualatin's neighborhoods and walkable commercial center, with an on-site production room, outdoor seating and a full-service kitchen.
Fast-forward three years, and you'll find Ancestry beers being sold at local supermarkets like New Seasons Market and Fred Meyer, poured at taphouses and restaurants throughout the Portland area, and even being featured at events like this summer's Oregon Brewers Festival in downtown Portland.
Months after Ancestry opened its doors, Trazza Fine Lebanese Food relocated from Beaverton to a 7,500-square-foot space at 19870 S.W. 112th Ave., just up Tualatin-Sherwood Road from the brewery. Trazza hummus, tzatziki, and other dips and sauces can now be found on grocery store shelves throughout the region.
Taylor said he thinks Tualatin has two natural major attractions for businesses, whether they're moving to town or just starting up: "Land and connectivity to transportation."
"We've got I-5 and 205 right here," Taylor said, referring to the two major freeways that pass through Tualatin.
He added, "Most of our food and beverage companies are able to get to market way quicker than trying to go through Portland, or to get to I-5 from going through Beaverton and Hillsboro."
As for the land, while many people's impression of Tualatin from I-5 is shopping centers and malls — thanks to Bridgeport Village, Nyberg Rivers and Nyberg Woods, which flank the freeway — a whopping 36% of Tualatin's buildable land is zoned for industrial development. Hundreds of those acres remain undeveloped, so the city's already-thriving industrial sector still has lots of room to grow.
Tualatin also has one of the lowest permanent property tax rates in the entire Portland metropolitan area.
"The suburban areas of Portland, especially the ones here in the South Metro, are more affordable," Taylor said. Cheaper land means it's easier for manufacturing companies to buy or lease property, and lower taxes means it's more profitable for them to do business in a city like Tualatin.
"It's always been super-important that we keep our business community sound and thriving," said City Manager Sherilyn Lombos. "We have more jobs than we have residents, and most of those jobs aren't voters — and yet those businesses provide a good chunk of our property tax dollars that go to serve. They go toward the library, and they go toward police, and they go toward parks."
She concluded, "Our residents are benefiting from the tax dollars that the businesses are providing."
As established businesses like Lam Research and Pacific Foods hum along, and as newer businesses like Ancestry and Trazza prosper, the economic landscape in Tualatin continues to evolve.
Ancestry was the first brewery to establish itself in Tualatin, but it's not the only one. Stickmen Brewing Co., headquartered in neighboring Lake Oswego, set up a larger production facility in Tualatin's industrial area. G-Men Brewing grew out of the former Birra Pub space, now a taproom for the craft brew startup, at 18749 S.W. Martinazzi Ave. in downtown Tualatin.
Although beer production and distribution still comprises a relatively small fraction of Tualatin's workforce, it's beginning to have an impact on Tualatin's culture.
For the first time this year, the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta — one of the city's signature annual events, featuring pumpkin-themed activities, food vendors, and a series of races around the Lake of the Commons by paddlers in enormous, hollowed-out pumpkins — will officially be a two-day event. Before the pumpkin-paddlers take to the lake on Saturday, Oct. 19, Stickmen Brewing will welcome visitors to its brewpub at 19475 S.W. 118th Ave. in Tualatin for a Friday, Oct. 18, program called Pumpkins & Pints.
By Mark Miller
Washington County Editor
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