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Two company's will received 5-year property tax abatements in lieu of investments, jobs

COURTESY OF CITY OF WOODBURN - Map of the Woodburn-Gervais enterprise zone shows the location of the 108 acres at the far west of town added to the zone by Woodburn City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019.For the first time since the Woodburn-Gervais enterprise zone was established in 2010, two manufacturing firms will be taking full advantage the tax abatement it provides.

During its Tuesday, Nov. 12 meeting, Woodburn City Council gave a nod to granting the extended, 5-year property tax abatement to Grating Pacific and I & E Construction. City of Woodburn records describe the zone as providing abatements of property taxes from 3 to 5 years to eligible, qualifying businesses.PMG FILE PHOTO - Woodburn Economic Development Director Jamie Johnk.

In order to qualify manufacturing or trade-oriented businesses must make a minimum property investment of $50,000 and increase its full-time, permanent positions by 10 percent of its current workforce. The new positions must pay at least 150% of Marion County's average wage, which amounts to $67,134 per year.

A report presented to the council by Woodburn Economic Development Director Jamie Johnk noted that Grating Pacific is expanding its North Front Street facility by adding about 19,000 square feet of space along with equipment and machinery, amounting to investments of roughly $4 million. That expansion is expected to create five additional jobs to its current 28.

I & E Construction (aka Ivanov Investment Group) purchased property on Progress Way where it plans to build a 28,000 square foot facility for its construction business, a $3.1 million investment. Four existing jobs will be located at the site, along with one additional job at the stipulated pay scale, qualifying for the abatement.

The enterprise-zone designation was established in 2010, adding Gervais in 2014, as a means of incentivizing area investments in manufacturing and production businesses.

"It encourages investment by (businesses) that add value to a product and sells it outside our region," Johnk said.

Enterprise zone expansion

During the same meeting, the council expanded the enterprise zone by roughly 108 acres. That acreage had been annexed into Woodburn's urban growth boundary but had yet to be adopted into the enterprise zone. That land is on the far-west edge of town, west of Interstate 5.

"Is that going to get us a giant corporation coming in?" Councilor Eric Morris posed, somewhat tongue and cheek.

"That's what we are shooting for," Johnk replied. "Every little bit helps."

Greg Specht of Specht Development in Portland, which purchased 60 of those acres and holds an option on the balance of the property, approached the council to urge its inclusion into the zone.

"We are in the business of competing for uses of industrial space, and we do so throughout the region," Specht said. "Many other jurisdictions have designated their industrial lands as enterprise zones, including Portland, Gresham, Hillsboro, and especially Salem.

"Of particular note we have (competed with), and we continue to compete with the 600-acre Mill Creek Corporate Center in Salem, all of which is designated an enterprise zone," Specht added. "To not be able to offer the same benefits as our competition does put us at a competitive disadvantage."

Specht said in the previous week representatives from his firm met with a prospect on the Woodburn acreage. That undisclosed prospect was looking for a 690,000 square-foot "new home" for up to 1,200 employees.

"The first question to me was 'is the land entitled? I said yes. The second question was, 'what incentives are available?'" Specht related. "I said we are working with the city to expand the enterprise zone."

Specht provided a couple of regional examples of developments undertaken recently that were at least partially spurred on by enterprise zone incentives.

"I believe we are all on the same page in our pursuit of new industrial jobs coming to Woodburn," Specht concluded.

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