The Roundup City Development Corporation, Pendleton Chamber of Commerce, city of Pendleton, and Pendleton Economic Development board invited citizens to a town hall meeting Wednesday. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the proposed future plans for infrastructure development on industrial lands adjacent to the Pendleton Municipal Airport.
Tracy Bosen, Pendleton Economic Development director, helped facilitate an amazingly informative, respectful and transparent presentation.
Proponents were able to make remarks intended to motivate and inspire. Experts were on hand to answer specific technical questions. Citizens from all perspectives were allowed to give their own personal views of the history, need, impact, challenges and opportunities that might rebound from going forward or maintaining the status quo.
Of particular interest to me were some remarks given by Jim Whitney, who said he has been doing commercial real estate work in Pendleton for 38 years.
He gave a brief historical overview of the allocation of industrial lands immediately prior to the implementation of Oregon land use laws. In those days, some communities designated vast tracts of land for industrial purposes, while others were more conservative or modest in their expectations for future growth.
What resulted is those with the largest tracts of properly zoned land have seen commercial and industrial growth, while those whose vision was more moderate have been impeded in their efforts for decades.
Various examples were given that confirmed the fact that nearly all businesses expand or relocate to sites that fit a very specific criteria and unique business model. Depending on the necessity of certain requirements, some site attributes are either essential or advantageous.
The Wal-Mart Distribution Center was built on a large flat tract of private property with a willing seller. The site was adjacent to a state highway near an interstate highway, adjoining a community with a sufficiently qualified workforce.
The Union Pacific Railroad locomotive repair shop was built on the mainline at the Hinkle switch yard because this is precisely where locomotives are repaired.
The Umatilla Chemical Depot incinerator, which provides many family wage jobs in the area, was built on the depot because of the specific purpose of the facility.
Grain elevators and food processing plants are always built in locations that consider freight costs from production areas to transportation systems for distribution to global customers.
Two large gas-fired power plants were located in this area because of a sufficient mainline source of natural gas capacity, process water for steam, and proximity to the a major electrical transmission grid for delivery to end users (more plants would have been built had there been enough transmission capacity between McNary and John Day dams.)
Two Rivers Correctional Institute, built on Port of Umatilla property, was constructed because of available flat land, proximity to adequate utilities and adjoining a community that welcomed the facility.
Wind generation is expanding in areas of consistent wind, available private and public land, and access to transmission.
The new distribution center at the Port of Umatilla was constructed on a site that required the removal of nearly 300,000 cubic yards of material because the developer strongly desired to be within the fenced and monitored security perimeter of a public dock.
The city of Hermiston recently sited a seed processing and distribution facility. The building will be located on private property within one of the best growing regions for corn in the world. The professionalism of the Hermiston city officials, the willingness of the private property owner, and the requirements of the new business were essential in bringing this endeavor to fruition.
Economic development is often misunderstood as being driven primarily by personality. Although intelligence, ambition, professionalism, and efficiency are important, geography, topography, demography, public policy and specific site attributes dominate most discussions on economic development.
Pendleton is replete with many highly motivated individuals, intelligent and willing private citizens, well-organized community groups and competent public employees and officials, but for years the community has been impeded because of topography and zoning.
Access to properly zoned, flat industrial property makes a more prosperous future available for the citizens of Pendleton.
Bosen played a key role at the town meeting, bringing cohesion to the efforts of many people over a very long period of time. Better days lie ahead. Congratulations.
Kim B. Puzey is general manager of the Port of Umatilla. Puzey joined the Port of Umatilla staff in 1994. His work experience spans over 35 years from steel fabrication, high rise construction and farm management to university educator and port manager. He can be reached at (541) 922-3224.