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Port of Benton: Preparing for big projects, DOE land

The Port of Benton has several exciting projects planned for 2016 to stimulate economic development within its port district.

The port’s big story is the transfer of 1,641 acres from the Department of Energy (DOE) that occurred in September 2015. The Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC), was the lead agency working with the DOE to facilitate this transfer. The port worked with its development partners, the city of Richland and Benton County, and received 760 acres of property from this transaction.

The port and city of Richland intend to jointly collaborate in master planning efforts of the “mega” site to implement a shared, consistent vision, creating the highest, best use of economic development opportunities within the district.

Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, along with former Congressman Doc Hastings, passed legislation to ensure the transfer was complete by the end of 2015.

The Richland Innovation Center (RIC) is in the middle of the Tri-Cities Research District (TCRD) between Stevens Drive and George Washington Way. This offers a great location for start-up and spin-off businesses, and it is ideal for high-tech industries to flourish in the environment created just for them.

The port and Washington State University Tri-Cities are coordinating efforts to rehabilitate and transfer a long-vacant facility into a “Maker Space.” This hands-on classroom space will be ideal for students wanting to enjoy and explore entrepreneurial opportunities in the area.

The Manufacturing Mall continues to prosper and grow with the addition of the “loop track” and state-of-the-art, full-service, temperature-controlled “Preferred Freezer Services,” which were completed in the City of Richland’s Horn Rapids Industrial Area in July.

As the area continues to spur development and employment opportunities, the port discusses potential projects with several companies to further expand businesses growth and the tax base.

The port has two general aviation airports that continue to grow and experience ongoing project development. The Richland Airport will experience an investment of $4 million in projects, with support from a large Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant. Projects will consist of pavement reconstruction and new infrastructure for additional, high-demand hangar development. The airport, home to more than 200 aircraft, offers a full-service fixed-base operator in Sundance Aviation, Ann’s Best Creole and Soul Food Café.

Northwest MedStar, a critical air medic transport, had an increase in flights in the first three quarters of 2015, with 748 fixed-wing, 610 rotor-wing and 1,400 ground ambulance operations. Their service area includes central/eastern Washington, northern Idaho, Montana and eastern Oregon. They also provide patient transport to Seattle and other facilities throughout the United States and parts of Canada.

With the aid of a FAA grant of $290,000, the Prosser Airport will conduct a master plan update, key to pursuing future development money and ensure planned growth for this vibrant community and the airport.

The port owns two multitenant development buildings in the heart of Benton City. Logar Pharmacy, Quail Crossings and Branches and Vines continue to thrive as the port searches for additional opportunities to strengthen the economic market in this small community downtown corridor.

At the Prosser Wine and Food Park, we have plans to seek grants and funding for a stage in the park. The stage will be used to enhance the many entertainment opportunities drawn to the area by the wine industry. This is one more way we can help facilitate tourism and economic development for the Prosser area.

As the port identifies new economic development opportunities and ways to maximize job creation within its district, preliminary design plans are under way to construct a new multitenant facility in the second phase of Vintner’s Village in Prosser. Ideal business tenants would be agritourism, light industrial and commercial, further supporting the existing businesses within Vintners Village.

Finally, in south Benton County, Crow Butte Park will have a new playground structure, thanks to a grant from the state’s Recreation Conservation Office. The RCO grant for the equipment comes through the local parks division and provides $162,000 with an equal match of port money to create a wonderful new playground for our users. Crow Butte Park is open from March 15 through Oct. 31. The marina and boat launch are open year-round with 10 boat slips and 50 camp/RV sites that are available by reservation through the same time period.

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