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EDC: More industrial land needed to attract business

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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With the closure of Shelton's Simpson Lumber Co. mills last year and the impending closure of the local Olympic Panel Products, many county residents are looking for the next big industry to come to town.

However, industrial companies — such as manufacturing, food processing and assembly businesses — are continually passing on making Mason County their next home.


There's simply no place to put them here.

Lynn Longan, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Mason County, or EDC, said several studies completed during the past decade have shown that Mason County has no large land parcels serviced by electric, water and sewer.

"There are plenty of parcels of land, but those are generally 2, 3 or 5 acres," Longan said. "But that's not what (those businesses) are looking for."

Longan said in general, a large-scale business — one that would provide a plethora of jobs to county residents — is looking for at least 10 to 25 acres, but sometimes up to 50 or 100 acres of land to build a new warehouse on.

"Until we have those, we're not in a position to compete," Longan said.

The issue only applies to businesses that want to develop land and build from the ground up. Some new businesses have been able to find existing buildings to move into in the county, such as Black Diamond Biotech, a marijuana grower that was officially able to move into a building in downtown Shelton after the city commission voted to reduce a zoning buffer last week.

In 2006, the EDC commissioned a study through ED Hovee and Associates, a Vancouver-based survey company, to find how much buildable land, or land ready for development, was available in Mason County.

That study was updated in 2012, when the associates went out to physically walk all land zoned "industrial" in the county. They found that many of the parcels — most under 5 acres — were wetlands or built on an incline. Building would not even be possible on these parcels, Longan said.

Many of the plots were lacking either electric or water hookups as well, the study showed.

"There is a need for larger sites of 50 and 100 acres, and under the current land-use zoning, there are only two that would come close," the study stated.

These plots are in Belfair and on Johns Prairie Road near Shelton, but are not fitted with water or electric hookups.

The study continued, "This is a major deficiency in our readiness to attract business investments."

Longan said the lack of ready-available industrial land has hurt Mason County several times during the past three years.

At least seven major industrial companies have ruled out Mason County as their building site due to a lack of industrial land, she said.

Longan said the EDC regularly receives requests for proposals from the state when large companies are searching for a new site for their business. These proposals are vague, according to Longan, and do not specify the name of the business. Instead, it says what kind of business, such as a manufacturing company, and what the company is looking for.

The EDC then responds with what

Mason County could provide the company. However, Longan said the EDC usually has to tell the business that work would need to be done on available land before it would be ready to develop, which generally deters the business.

Jennifer Baria, business development manager at the EDC, said there are no requests for 2- or 3-acre lots, because most times the business can find an existing building to move into instead.


Longan said the EDC, the City of Shelton and the county are working to right the problem.

Longan said the city is working to rezone approximately 400 acres of residential land in the county as industrial. Part of this land is near Sanderson Field in Shelton.

Barbara Adkins, community development director for Mason County, said changes may happen to its comprehensive plan, which may make more lands available to be zoned as industrial.

"As mandated by the state, the county is working to update the comprehensive plan," she said. The EDC might be making contributions to that, which would help."

However, available land isn't the only thing businesses look at when they think about relocating to Mason County.

Longan said potential businesses check out the community as well, from crime rates to unemployment, to ensure their business will succeed here.

"When someone posts something negative on Facebook about Shelton, don't think site selectors don't see that," Longan said. "They do look for that kind of thing to figure out what the community is really like."

While Longan said Shelton may not always look the best on paper, the EDC can point to community programs such as Graduation Matters to demonstrate the ways the community hopes to improve.

"We have to sell our community," she said. "Site selectors see that. They want to know what we've got."

"There are plenty of parcels of land, but those are generally 2,3 or 5 acres. But that's not what (those businesses) are looking for."

Lynn Longan, executive director of the Economic Development Council of

Mason County

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 4, 2016

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