HERMISTON - With the specter of losing 500 jobs in November when the Simplot potato processing plant closes, the Hermiston City Council reviewed a report Monday regarding what type of companies might be attracted to the property.

Representatives from Carter & Burgess Inc., a consulting company based in Fort Worth, Texas, that helped lure the Wal-Mart distribution center to Hermiston, concluded the plant is generally in good condition. The facility has excellent water capacity that might attract a business with heavy water needs, the consultants said.

Carter & Burgess also noted Hermiston's low labor costs, which they said should help attract new business.

However, the plant has "unorthodox" waste management facilities unique to a potato processing plant that will likely need to change to attract a new business, they said. The plant also needs new roofs in some areas and repairs in others, as well as repairs to concrete.

The consultants added that much work lays ahead to bring the facility into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A warehousing or distribution business, which have seen strong growth recently, would likely fit well with the property, the consultants said. They added that fruit and vegetable processing, agricultural chemicals or ethanol production could work well.

The 67-page assessment cost $32,000, which was funded by the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department.

Hermiston city leaders indicated they would not try to attract a business that would compete with Simplot.

"We don't want anything that would be detrimental to the living conditions and livability of our city," Mayor Bob Severson said. He declined to specify what types of businesses might threaten the city's livability.

Concerns that state land-use rules might hinder finding a replacement industry for the Simplot plant were eased last month when the state Land Conservation and Development Commission agreed that regulations should do "no harm" to economic development in the Hermiston area.

Also Monday, the council approved a 392-acre expansion of its urban growth boundary. The expansion, on the former C&B Feedlot property near Highway 207 and Feedville Road, will accommodate the Desert Falls Golf and Country Club. The 18-hole course is under construction after two years of development discussions with the city.

Developers anticipate the project will add 374 luxury homes to the Hermiston area, a housing segment that City Planner Clinton Spencer said the city has fallen short in attracting.

The county also must approve the expansion of the urban growth boundary.

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