More than two years ago, Spokane Valley city officials began laying the groundwork to bring new businesses and jobs to the northeast industrial area.
The city partnered with Spokane County to extend utilities to the area, embarked on road improvements, and created a planned action ordinance that identifies traffic and environmental impacts before developers file for permits, increasing predictability and reducing project timelines.
Now, the city’s efforts appear to be paying off.
Katerra opened its 270,000-square-foot cross-laminated timber plant in the northeast industrial area last year and more development is on the way, including plans by an unnamed company to build a 1.3 million-square-foot Amazon-like distribution facility on Euclid Avenue.
“Our idea to jump-start and streamline permitting by doing the environmental review up front really seems to be paying dividends out there,” said John Hohman, Spokane Valley’s deputy city manager. “We know that there’s a tremendous need for this type of property that’s shovel-ready.”
The 500-acre industrial area is bounded by Flora Road on the west, Trent Avenue to the north and a Union Pacific Railroad main rail line to the south.
Centennial Properties owned about 275 acres of that land, which has since been sold or is under contract, said Doug Yost, vice president of development and acquisitions at Centennial Real Estate Investment Co.
Centennial Properties is a subsidiary of the Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.
Centennial Properties has garnered interest from local and national businesses of varying sizes that were drawn to the amount of available, affordable land with infrastructure in Spokane Valley’s northeast industrial area. Businesses also were attracted to the area because of its proximity to rail and Interstate 90, Yost said.
“The key here is to have everything ready to go. It really can make or break a deal. The fact that I could work with the city and (that) everyone was reasonable on what we were doing makes a huge difference,” Yost said.
“We were all on the same page and delivering the same message to buyers and clients who wanted to locate here. We did not miss any opportunity. When somebody came to us and wanted to buy (land) and develop, we made the deal work.”
Centennial Properties also worked with the city to extend Garland Avenue between Barker and Flora roads to help spur development.
In 2012, Spokane Valley formed an Economic Development Committee to gain community feedback and identify short- and long-term goals to entice businesses to the city.
The city subsequently formed an economic development department and partnered with Greater Spokane Incorporated, the area’s Chamber of Commerce and economic development agency, to identify and recruit Progress Rail and Katerra to the northeast industrial area.
Progress Rail, a subsidiary of Chicago area-based Caterpillar Inc., purchased nearly 40 acres of land adjacent to Katerra from Centennial Properties for $3.2 million in 2017, according to the Spokane County Assessor’s Office.
Progress Rail has not started development on a project, but its land purchase sparked interest from other companies, such as Katerra.
Katerra’s state-of-the-art, cross-laminated timber manufacturing facility is the largest of its kind in the nation, according to the company.
The facility offers mass timber design, engineering and construction services, in addition to material production and distribution. It’s also equipped with extensive automation technologies and has one of the largest CLT presses in the world, the company says.
Katerra’s manufacturing plant employs 60 people and business is booming, said Jason Herman, general manager of Katerra’s Spokane Valley facility.
“As far as production, we’ve had 100% on-time shipments and we’ve done about five mass timber buildings year to date,” Herman said.
Katerra’s Spokane Valley facility has not yet ramped up to full production, as cross-laminated timber is a new and emerging product, but the plant has capacity to produce more product as the industry grows, Herman said.
When Krueger Sheet Metal outgrew its current facility at 731 N. Superior St. in Spokane, it looked to expand in Spokane Valley.
The family-owned business, which installs sheet metal, roofing and metal siding for commercial residential projects, is building a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on Barker Road in Spokane Valley’s northeast industrial area.
The facility should be complete in about a month, said Tom Brandt, owner and former president of Krueger Sheet Metal.
Like other companies, Krueger was drawn to the industrial area because there is enough land for the company to expand and build on for its own investment and development interests, Brandt said.
“We think it’s an area where there are some good opportunities for future growth and we are looking forward to being part of it,” Brandt said.
Spokane Metals, a steel fabrication company, also is relocating, moving its operations from Airway Heights to the industrial area and a $2.4 million facility at 4100 N. Barker Road.
Spokane Metals did not respond to a request for comment on the project status.
In addition, The Spokesman-Review’s print publishing operations relocated this year to the industrial area to a building owned by Centennial Real Estate Investment Co. on Euclid Avenue.
Spokane Valley is moving forward with its Barker Road/BNSF grade separation project that will replace a rail crossing with an overpass. The project, expected to be complete in 2023, also calls for a roundabout at Barker Road and Trent Avenue to improve traffic flow to the industrial area.
“The city of the Valley has positioned itself for a lot of growth going forward,” said Yost, of Centennial Properties. “We have other potential projects out there (in the northeast industrial area) that will address more of the retail and housing, which is going to be needed. We are really looking forward to continuing what we are doing out there and working with the city.”
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