County commissioners caught a couple of rays of economic sunshine Friday.
They learned two unnamed companies are interested in surplus Spokane County land that was acquired for the Geiger Spur railroad.
One is a firm that has commissioned the Colliers International real estate services firm to scout sites for a large distribution center.
The other is described as a company that would invest $10 million in an “energy-conversion” plant that would generate electricity.
That company, which was recruited by Greater Spokane Incorporated, is prepared to negotiate a 10-acre purchase, according to Mark McLees, an NAI Black commercial real state broker who is representing the county.
The energy company needs access to the Geiger Spur for materials it would ship in from around the Pacific Northwest, McLees said. He said the company is interested in using the proposed trans-loading center.
Government and business officials say several other sites on the West Plains also are under study for the distribution center.
Without realizing their own property was under consideration, commissioners recently moved to accommodate the center by asking the county Planning Commission to review a 40-foot height limit in light industrial zones.
Business people familiar with the site search say the distribution center needs a building up to 50 feet tall.
Commissioners’ efforts to increase the limit – if that can be done without harming Fairchild Air Force Base or Spokane International Airport – is a “huge” help, McLees said.
He said the distribution center scouts are interested in 80 acres southwest of the corner of McFarlane and Craig roads, between the airport and Fairchild.
The land, north of a proposed transloading center on the county’s Geiger Spur railroad, is part of 205 acres the county has for sale.
McLees said having at least two access points on Craig Road is “very important” to the distribution center, and county Engineer Bob Brueggeman said that wouldn’t be a problem.
Commissioners asked Chief Executive Officer Marshall Farnell to deal with another potential obstacle: an electric line that would have to be moved.
The county land is in an “urban growth study area” that could be converted to an “urban growth area,” eligible for public sewer service, in a 10-year review scheduled this fall.
Commissioners expressed interest in supporting the distribution center with tax-increment financing for public projects such as sewer construction or road improvements. Tax-increment financing temporarily diverts new taxes to promote economic development.
Meanwhile, Chairman Al French said commissioners are hopeful of receiving money from the Legislature for more work on the Geiger Spur, which the county acquired and rerouted in 2008.
The line had to be removed from Fairchild Air Force Base for security reasons. All but $127,388 of the nearly $6.2 million spent on the project so far has been paid with grants and low-interest loans.
Now county officials want to finish the project by rebuilding a 2.3-mile section of badly deteriorated track.
French said Gov. Chris Gregoire budgeted $378,000 for the work, and legislators are trying to decide how much of the money should be a grant and how much a low-interest loan.