Rural development focus ramps up: 500+ jobs, 46 projects active
Helping to generate economic growth and good jobs in Washington’s rural and underserved communities remains the top priority for Commerce in 2018. Our efforts to focus business development in communities outside the largest metro areas in our state are paying off to the tune of more than 500 jobs and $1.6 billion in capital investment from business recruitments and expansions supported last year, including the Katerra wood products plant in Spokane Valley and Diamond Foundry in Wenatchee.
Recognizing that our state’s economic boom is not equal outside of the Seattle-Tacoma-Everett corridor, Commerce has focused more attention and resources in rural and underserved communities. In the last half of 2017, two important big wins help spotlight this work:
Katerra is a Menlo Park, CA-based construction startup that provides professional services to manage the construction marketplace. In June, the company acquired Spokane, Washingon’s Nystrom and Olson Architecture in a bid to establish the company’s official presence in the Pacific Northwest. Recently, Katerra purchased 29 acres of industrial land from Centennial Properties to break ground on a 250,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility in the Spokane Valley this fall. The factory will produce engineered wood products, such as glulam and cross-laminated timber (CLT), capable of replacing concrete and steel in wooden high-rise buildings and parking garages. Washington State University helped develop the local manufacturing methods for CLT, making use of wood scraps processed from small-diameter trees in Eastern Washington’s forests.
“Spokane is strategic because of the timber resource, the workforce and the location,” said co-founder Fritz Wolff, enabling “access to the major cities of the Northwest.”
The Spokane Valley factory is the first of several engineered-wood plants Katerra expects to open around the country. It will employ approximately 150 people initially with potential for 200 to 300 jobs. Future expansion plans include on-site lumber processing and a distribution center, adding an additional 50 to 75 jobs and a $35 million investment.
Diamond Foundry recently announced plans to locate a new “MegaCarat” foundry in Wenatchee. The San Francisco-based company creates synthetic diamonds for setting in engagement rings. Diamond Foundry leased three acres and a former fruit-packing warehouse from Stemilt Growers, one of the leading producers of apples and pears in the United States. Local hiring for an initial 40 employees and facility upgrades for the 56,000 sq. ft. warehouse are underway, with the first diamond reactors scheduled to deploy in early 2018.
The company expects to hire upwards of 96 positions as diamond-making comes online. Chosen for its “hydropower source of energy, supportive community and capability to hire skilled staff,” the Wenatchee location will be home to the company’s main foundry with the San Francisco plant focused on tool construction and technical support. Backed by over $100 million in venture funding, Diamond Foundry boasts a net-zero carbon footprint throughout its manufacturing and distribution process and produces about 100,000 carats of diamonds per year.
These are two of 12 business recruitment and expansion projects our development team closed out in 2017, adding over 500 jobs and $1.6 billion in capital expenditure. Since 2012, Commerce has closed 49 recruitment, retention or expansion projects in rural communities, accounting for over 3,100 jobs and over $2 billion in capex.
Today, our business development pipeline in rural communities – excluding King, Pierce and Snohomish counties – counts 33 open recruitments and 13 expansion projects with an estimated 2,807 jobs and nearly $3 billion capital expenditure in play.
We’re looking forward to building on a successful strategy of collaboration with industry sector leaders, local economic development organizations, national and international site selection consultants, education and workforce training resources and other government agencies to ensure that Washington state is playing to win good corporate citizens and sustainable jobs for all of our communities.