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May 16, 2014

Plans Unveiled for Possible Wood Products Facility in Chehalis

The Chronicle

Christopher Brewer

The Port of Chehalis could soon become home to a major wood products company, and the public received an initial glimpse as to just how that could come about on Tuesday.

The Willamette Valley Company, or WVCO, hopes to build a facility on 29 acres of land along Maurin and Rush roads with the goal of creating materials for the wood products industry.

Officials from the company were present Tuesday afternoon as the Port of Chehalis Commission voted unanimously in an official meeting to enter private negotiations on a possible sale of the property to the company.

Port of Chehalis commissioners also held a public hearing to hear from Willamette Valley Company officials about their plans and to gain input from citizens on whether or not selling the 29 acres - which currently belongs to the Port of Chehalis and sits just to the west of the port's office - would be feasible.

Company chief operating officer Larry Deck said one of WVCO's primary products is a solution made from ground-up tree bark that is used in several applications, such as binding pieces of veneer together to make plywood. The product also can be used in agricultural applications as well.

The company, based in Eugene, Oregon, operates several facilities in the United States, Canada, and South America.

Deck told those present in the meeting that the company sees Chehalis as a prime location not only for its proximity to several mills and timber-industry related businesses, but also for the ability to easily connect with Interstate 5 and ship to other communities.

"We can source our material locally, and that means we don't have to bring it in from far away," Deck said. "It's reasonably effective for us to ship to customers from here."

A proposed site plan for the area shows several buildings on site ranging from a 3,500 square-foot office to a total of 71,500 in warehouse space. Raw material storage space would total more than 77,000 square feet, and more than 45,000 square feet of building space would be dedicated to the grinding, pelletizing, blending and packaging processes.

The port and WVCO had already entered a purchase agreement in late April, in which the company has a due diligence period to determine whether or not the property suits their needs before choosing to formally buy the property. Scott Fraser of commercial real estate company Kidder Mathews, who also serves as the port's broker, was one of three who spoke up in support of the land sale. Fraser said the national demand for industrial land is high, and the 29-acre property being served by utility lines simplifies the process for a business wanting to move to the port.

"I hope they will be the first of many to come here," Fraser said of WVCO. "The port has made it easy for companies like The Willamette Valley Company to expand here."

The company would start construction on the facility in 2015, with an initial private investment of $20 million and public investment of $1 million. The plant would become operational in 2016, with an initial forecasted payroll of 25; that could rise to 40 as operations rev up.

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