The Port of Morrow is in line to receive $6 million from the Oregon Department of Transportation to build a new cold storage warehouse and rail spur at the port’s East Beach Industrial Park.

A review committee for ODOT’s ConnectOregon grant program recommended funding the request on June 12, which would cover nearly half the project’s total cost. It now goes to the state Transportation Commission for final approval.

As food processors continue to expand their operations at the port, officials identified the need for more cold storage of products such as frozen vegetables. The proposed 100,000-square-foot facility would likely handle 150-200 million pounds of product in the first year alone, said Lisa Mittelsdorf, the port’s director of economic development.

In addition, crews will build a 2,500-foot rail spur to connect the building to an existing line in the industrial park. From there, frozen vegetables or dairy products are processed and exported to customers across the world.

Businesses such as Boardman Foods, Calbee North America and Tillamook Cheese all stand to benefit from the project, Mittelsdorf said.

“We certainly have had strong economic growth in this region,” she said. “The fact that this project was given a significant amount of funding suggests (ODOT) believes in what we’re doing out here.”

To receive such a heavy investment from the state is an acknowledgment of the port’s proven track record creating jobs and boosting local industry, Mittelsdorf said.

“We really look at ourselves as a regional economic center,” she said. “With these projects, and their payment back into state and federal taxes, it is significant.”

Since 2006, the port has grown its annual economic outlook by 88 percent to its current level of $1.6 billion per year, according to figures. The East Beach Industrial Park has also seen $50 million in infrastructure improvements over that time, and attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment.

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Contact George Plaven at gplaven@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4547.

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