I was pleased to read the Union-Bulletin has endorsed Mike Fredrickson for re-election to the Port Commission. What I found to be right on target was the newspaper's perspective that Mr. Corkrum's views on economic development are somewhat unrealistic, especially as it relates to the Port's ownership of real estate.
Economic development is highly competitive and the Port must be aggressive, which means owning real estate that it can market to new businesses. There are several examples in which the Port Commission's progressive policy on owning real estate has resulted in substantial economic development successes for the Walla Walla Valley.
The prime example is the Railex produce distribution center. This project was on a very tight timeline for development. When Railex learned the Port owned pre-zoned industrial property, adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad in the western portion of Walla Walla County, it became very interested in the site.
When it learned the Port had already secured a water right and drilled a well that enabled the site to be ready for development, it selected Walla Walla County for its new $20 million investment. The alternative site for this new investment was in Benton County.
Today, Railex is the ninth largest taxpayer in Walla Walla County, paying $216,000 in annual property taxes.
In 2002 the Port acquired the closed Agri-Frozen Food Processing Plant. Soon thereafter, the Port received a lead from a juice processing plant looking for a food processing-type building.
It was on a tight time frame to get the plant up and running. Cliffstar selected the Port's Agri-Frozen building as it could be easily modified to meet its needs. Today, Cliffstar is the 47th largest employer in the Valley with 56 good-paying jobs.
The Port strategy for acquiring property and getting it ready for development has paid off. The Port's track record has been impressive. I am concerned this strategy may change if Mr. Corkrum is elected. He does not support the Port's progressive approach to economic development.
I will be voting for Mike Fredrickson for re-election on the Port Commission. His appraisal and real estate background are great assets to have on the Port Commission.