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Traditional Strengths Point
Way to Economic Recovery

From logistics in Alaska to aerospace in Washington to high-tech in Oregon, the Northwest is seeing renewed corporate investment interest in the region.


International Absorbents' plant in Bellingham, Wash.
International Absorbents' plant in Bellingham, Wash., will save the company $150,000 a year. In December 2003, the company broke ground on another plant in Jesup, Ga./div>

ockets of the Pacific Northwest are enjoying some much-needed economic relief now that corporate investment is beginning to pick up. Above-average unemployment – parts of Oregon have seen 11 percent recently – has belied the region's many attributes.
        Washington State is fighting to keep its 200,000-job aerospace industry, particularly Boeing's manufacturing presence, from migrating out of the region. Washington is fiercely competing for Boeing's 7E7 Dreamliner assembly plant. In June 2003, legislators passed a US$3-billion incentives package in the hope of lan ding the plant, which could generate as many as 150,000 direct and indirect jobs and as much as $540 million in annual tax revenue, according to some estimates. In October, Boeing announced plans to cease production of its 757 family of passenger aircraft, which are assembled at a plant in Renton, Wash. Production of other passenger aircraft will continue at the 760,000-sq.-ft. (70,600-sq.-m.) facility.
        Concerted efforts are under way throughout the region to take advantage of improving economic conditions and attract corporate investment more aggressively than was the case in the past. A case in point is Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski's focus on economic development and his determination to re-brand the state as more than just a West Coast tourist destination. The state is in the midst of implementing the Oregon Business Plan, a 12-point strategy for making Oregon a natural home for existing and emerging industries that will spur economic growth well into
the future.
        Among the initiatives called for in the plan are reforming and improving education, investing in roads and bridges, improving air access and trade infrastructure, making land available for industrial development, simplifying regulations and permitting and marketing the state more aggressively. The initiatives will take some time to bear fruit, but Oregon already is seeing renewed location interest on the part of private industry.
        Redmond, in central Oregon, is the location of a new, 77,000-sq.-ft. (7,000-sq.-m.) customer service center that T-Mobile USA is building. The facility will generate more than 700 new jobs. T-Mobile, a provider of wireless voice, data and messaging services, already operates a call center in Salem, the state capital.
        Ontario, in Eastern Oregon, is where Idaho-based Treasure Valley Renewable Resources (TVRR) is investing $77 million to build a biorefinery plant. Nearby locations in Idaho contended for the plant. The facility will create 60 jobs in an area that saw 9-percent unemployment in mid-2003.
        TVRR's plant is a good example of so-called sustainable or renewable development. It will use barley, wheat, corn and milo from local producers to make food-grade starch and fiber as well as protein concentrate for human food and aquaculture industries. It also will capture carbon dioxide for the production of ethanol, and wet-spent grain, a byproduct of the facility, will be used as livestock feed.
        Cardinal Glass Industries is investing $17 million to build a 185,000-sq.-ft. (17,000-sq.-m.) glass manufacturing facility in Hood River County, where the unemployment rate has passed the 11-percent level recently. Approximately 80 new jobs will result from the investment. The Minnesota-based company's plans to occupy a former lumber mill site in Odell, in the Columbia River Gorge, were facilitated in June 2003 when Gov. Kulongoski signed the Mill Bill, which streamlines the process of redeveloping such sites.
        In June 2003, Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions announced a relocation of its manufacturing operations to Medford, in southern Oregon. The company makes particle-counting machines used in contamination monitoring systems. The Milpitas, Calif.-based company had considered sites in Nevada, Arizona and Montana before deciding on the Medford location, which will generate 80 to 100 jobs in Jackson County.
        Lighthouse President Adam Giandomenico cites "a large pool of highly skilled manufacturing people in the Rogue Valley" as a key criterion in selecting Medford. "And the facility is five and a half hours from our headquarters, which means it's extremely convenient," he adds. The economic impact of the project could be $11 million to $16 million annually.
        On the high-tech front, Hynix Semiconductor Manufacturing America is investing $100 million to upgrade its semiconductor plant in Eugene. When complete, Hynix will have invested more than $1.6 billion in the facility, which employs 850 workers and 170 contract workers. Thortex, a manufacturer of orthopedic implants, plans to build a headquarters and manufacturing facility in Portland's Airport Way industrial area, part of the area's growing medical devices industry.
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