INVESTMENT PROFILE : UMATILLA COUNTY
From Oregon Investment Guide 2024
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THE CROSSROADS OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

HOW UMATILLA COUNTY STRENGTHENS ITS COMMUNITIES AND INDUSTRY NETWORK.

INVESTMENT PROFILE : UMATILLA COUNTY
The city of Umatilla
Photo courtesy of Umatilla County

by LINDSAY LOPP
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estled in rolling fields and sections of the Columbia River and Blue Mountains, Umatilla County is as diverse as the industries anchored there. From agriculture to energy, this part of Eastern Oregon is being transformed into an opportunity landscape by area leadership.

“Our county team is structured to assist development,” says Umatilla County Commissioner Dan Dorran. “We have a planning department that has been able to site very complex industries in the challenging Oregon business and regulatory atmosphere. We have a team that recognizes those issues and challenges and can still successfully site industries within those boundaries.”

By prioritizing close relationships with the county’s 12 incorporated cities — Adams, Athena, Echo, Helix, Hermiston, Milton-Freewater, Pendleton, Pilot Rock, Stanfield, Ukiah, Umatilla and Weston — Umatilla County and its partners have spurred growth across the region.

“We know that if the county doesn’t have a piece of property that meets the needs of a developer, we can check with the cities and it’s likely that they do,” says Umatilla County Community Development Director Robert Waldher. “Our philosophy is, if we have a win for one city on the west side of the county, or a win for a city in east county, those are wins for the whole county.”

Umatilla County has celebrated many wins in recent years. Located less than a four-hour drive from Portland, Boise, Seattle and Spokane, Umatilla County’s central location in the Pacific Northwest has attracted companies in freight distribution, manufacturing, food processing, agriculture, unmanned aerial vehicle development, data centers and renewable energy.

“Where I-82 and I-84 cross in Umatilla County has as much commercial traffic as anywhere on I-5 from Bellingham to San Deigo,” says Dorran. “It tells you why we have over 30 freight relay yards.”

These resources, paired with the county’s reputation as the second youngest population in Oregon and access to a workforce of over 250,000, have built a business-friendly environment that appeals to industry giants.

Energizing Oregon
Amazon Web Services continues to be a significant developer in the region. Since 2011, the multinational technology company has invested about $23 billion in Eastern Oregon.

“They’ve been investing heavily here for the past 15 years, building and operating data centers,” says Mark Morgan, assistant city manager of Hermiston. “I think on the ground right now, between Umatilla and Morrow County, there’s somewhere in the range of 6,000 construction workers who are working on multiple campuses.”

Following Amazon’s lead, many other data center companies have decided to locate operations in Umatilla County. In September, Sabey Data Centers announced plans to construct a 100-megawatt data center on a 60-acre site in the Greater Umatilla Enterprise Zone, which is co-sponsored by the city of Umatilla and Umatilla County. Sabey plans to rent space to companies that do not have data centers of their own — unlike Amazon, which uses its facilities solely for its own operations.

To sweeten the deal, the county and city have entered into an agreement with Sabey, in which the company will receive a 15-year property tax break. In return, Sabey must invest at least $200 million, hire 10 full-time employees, pay compensation that includes employee benefits equal to 130% of the Umatilla County average wage, as well as several annual fees that benefit the community.

With similar projects popping up across the region, Morgan anticipates that the county will see a long pipeline of future projects continuing in the data center industry.

Establishing Industry Hubs
Umatilla County aims for growth to extend beyond data centers.

“It’s not just the data center folks; it’s the people that supply material to them, that vendor to them, who are also important to us. Those are the people that help create some backbone,” says Dorran. “In the city of Umatilla, they just recruited a filter company. The filters are the size of a building, and they get replaced. Those vendors had been coming from a long way away.”

By bringing the vendors, suppliers and material handlers for each aspect of the data center industry to Umatilla County, the region’s leaders aim to create a strong ecosystem for this sector in Eastern Oregon.

This isn’t Umatilla County’s first time cultivating an industry hub. Its agricultural roots have given way to a robust food processing sector, encompassing various brands and vendors, including Smith Frozen Foods, Hill Meat Company and J&J Snack Foods Corp.

From sausage to sweet frozen treats, many household staples are made in Umatilla County. And while Lamb Weston is not a name one would see on grocery store shelves, many people across the country consume their products every day.

“They produce french fries, hashbrowns, those types of products for all of the major quick-service food chains,” explains Morgan. “McDonald’s, Wendy’s, they even got Taco Bell to do fries.”

Umatilla County’s central locationUmatilla County’s central location connects companies to several major cities.
Source: Umatilla County

In 2019, Lamb Weston expanded its Hermiston processing plant by 300,000 sq. ft., a $250 million project. Almost 200 full-time jobs were added. Like Sabey, the company was able to secure a tax incentive deal with Umatilla County. Instead, it will pay $1 million a year for the next 15 years, which is planned to be invested into community development.

Through these deals, the county has been able to embark on multiple infrastructure projects that increase access to housing, water, sewer, energy sources and more.  

“We’re seeing about $70 million worth of infrastructure investment in expanded water, sewer, power and roads in the area that we refer to as our South Hermiston Industrial Park,” says Morgan. “We’re seeing a lot of that financed by the data center industry, but that’s leaving a significant amount of capacity in that industrial park area for additional development with large industrial sites available with access to those improvements.”

With over 1,000 acres prepared for development, Umatilla County is gearing up to usher in new opportunities to create even stronger industry sectors.


This investment profile was prepared under the auspices of Umatilla County. For more information, contact Umatilla County’s Community Development Director Robert Waldher at 541-278-6251 or by email at robert.waldher@umatillacounty.gov.

Lindsay Lopp
Associate Editor of Site Selection magazine

Lindsay Lopp joined Conway Data in 2023. She is the assistant editor of the company's Custom Content division and regularly contributes to Site Selection magazine. In 2021, she graduated from Pratt Institute with her BFA in Creative Writing and is currently completing her MFA in Popular Fiction and Publishing at Emerson College.





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