New tool holds promise for luring jobs to Woodburn
Economic development proponents received a new tool to lure large businesses — and the prospect of more than 1,000 jobs — to Woodburn.
The Woodburn City Council voiced its approval of a Strategic Investment Program, an incentive that exempts certain taxes for companies that invest at least $25 million in new capital into a rural area.
Orchestrated through Business Oregon, SIP offers a 15-year property-tax exemption for amounts invested over $25 million in rural areas, and $100 million in urban or metropolitan areas.
City staff members have been communicating with businesses that are interested in expanding, and in Woodburn, specifically.
The council's support of the SIP authorizes the city to place the proposal before the Marion County Board of Commissioners, which would need to agree before the program is implemented.
"I am working on getting a meeting set with county staff to strategize on next steps for the work session," said Economic Development Director Jamie Johnk on Wednesday, May 13.
Johnk and City Administrator Scott Derickson gave a presentation to the Woodburn City Council on May 11. Their talk underscored an e-commerce company, Apofiki (a code name assigned to the project through Business Oregon), which is interested in expanding in the Pacific Northwest. Apofiki has eight locations across the nation and has pared down its regional interests to a few places, including Woodburn and Canby.
The company is considering a $79 million investment that includes construction of a 690,000-square-foot facility in west Woodburn that could expand up to 800,000 and would employ 1,200 people with total estimated annual wages of $40.7 million.
Johnk said the average wage would be about $16.50 per hour.
Over 15 years, Apofiki would pay $5.8 million in property taxes on the initial $25 million investment; the abated taxes on the $54 million balance would amount to a cumulative $11.2 million.
Both Johnk and Derickson appeared enthusiastic about the prospect and indicated the company would be a great fit for the area. In addition to Apofiki, they said conversations with another outfit, Emerald, could produce even more jobs.
"Both of those projects are looking at building in Woodburn. Both of them would be significant employers and have significant capital investment attached to their projects," Derickson said.
Councilor Lisa Ellsworth pointed out that upon the city annexing the industrial land, there were discussions about preferred development.
"I know that when we first talked about annexing in the property, one of the things we discussed was, as a community, we wanted to make sure that it wasn't just a giant warehouse with three employees," Ellsworth said. "We didn't want just 1,200 minimum-wage jobs; we wanted living and thriving-wage jobs."
She added that environmentally unfriendly businesses also are regarded as taboo.
"We have had other proposals for this site that we didn't like," Derickson said. "The wages were low, the employment was not very high, and the companies were asking for the moon.
"We feel differently about this project … We like it because we think it fills a nice niche in our labor market."
Johnk reinforced that view.
"This is a good, strong company, and they do good things for their employees," Johnk said. "This is a good niche for our industrial park because it fits nicely with our labor force."
In addition to a favorable labor force, Woodburn's transportation accessibility also is a selling point.
"If you had asked me a year ago how I feel about SIP in Woodburn, I would have been more on the fence than I am today," Derickson said. "I think what we've come to realize is ... what the market would bear. We've been in this long enough now (to know the market) and the types of employment that would be supported in the I-5 corridor."
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