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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Kara Riebold: Proposed Agriculture Advancement Campus is consistent with port’s responsibility to develop land to support businesses, jobs in our communities

By Kara Riebold

By Kara Riebold

The Port of Whitman County has submitted to the city of Pullman a zoning application to facilitate the port’s development of an Agricultural Advancement Campus on the western edge of Pullman. News of this application has sparked community debate about the tradeoffs around land use and economic development. We believe these conversations are an important and necessary part of community planning and we want to make sure the port’s role is clearly understood.

The port’s mission is to facilitate economic development in Whitman County. We invest tax dollars and port revenue to develop and maintain industrial and commercial properties, a public park and waterfront recreation site, business air center and other public facilities. Our responsible stewardship of these assets brings jobs, tax revenue and economic vitality to the Palouse.

The proposed Agricultural Advancement Campus is exactly the type of project we have been tasked by our board of commissioners and the residents of Whitman County to pursue. The campus will attract businesses that will in turn create jobs, support local farmers, build on innovative research occurring at WSU and increase local tax revenue.

We also expect the campus to help keep local talent and attract new talent to the Palouse by providing opportunities for jobs that bring together agriculture and cutting-edge technology in communities with deep farming roots. We see this as critical to the future of communities and families in our region, and an opportunity to grow our local and state economy in new ways.

Contrary to some assertions, the campus is not being built solely at the request of a private business. Ports often seek opportunities by investing in infrastructure with the expectation of attracting businesses whose rent or land purchases will recoup that investment while also providing jobs and economic activity in our communities. In this case, we already have a committed tenant for the campus and have received inquiries from other businesses interested in leasing or purchasing land within the campus. In other words, we have not yet built, and already business is coming.

Because we see the campus as a good opportunity for Pullman and Whitman County, we submitted a zoning request to the city of Pullman. That request is just an application, one that triggers the city’s process of determining the best use of that land. There is no such thing as a project without tradeoffs, and we fully support the city of Pullman weighing our proposal against other worthy priorities.

Regardless of the outcome of the zoning request process, the port remains a committed partner to the city of Pullman and the residents, farmers and business owners of Whitman County. We will continue to work together to pursue development opportunities that further our mission of improving the quality of life for all citizens of Whitman County through economic development.

Kara Riebold is executive director of the Port of Whitman County.