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Huggy Bear's Won't Relocate In Dallesport

Portland cabinet-making company declines to move

Huggy Bear's Cupboards, Inc., a Portland cabinet-making company that appeared poised to relocate its manufacturing operations and bring dozens of jobs to Dallesport, has decided not to make the move.

Huggy Bear's had proposed building a new facility in Dallesport once it sold its Portland property. However, the cabinet-building company never could close a satisfactory deal for that property.

After two years of effort to bring the business to Klickitat County, the company explained that it couldn't continue to wait for the sale.

"It's very disappointing," said Dianne Sherwood, executive director of the Port of Klickitat, which owns the Dallesport industrial park. "They were trying to sell their Portland facility, and felt they had tried very diligently. They wanted to come, but they needed to go ahead and make improvements to their existing building, and were staying put."

Huggy Bear's had been touted as an "anchor tenant" for the industrial park, and was expected to provide 45 jobs that would pay more than the average income in the county. As many as 57 jobs were anticipated within two years.

In a July 26 letter to Sherwood, Stephen Murdock, vice president of Huggy Bear's Cupboards, explained:

"It is with regret that I must inform you that Huggy Bear's has decided it is time to close the door on the plans to relocate to Dallesport," Murdock wrote. "Our inability to find a buyer for our building at a price that would allow us to undertake the relocation, makes it impossible to move forward with that idea ... For months we have postponed certain projects in the plant, hoping that a buyer would emerge. We feel we can wait no longer ... We also feel it is unfair of us to continue to tie up funding which could help some other deserving company take advantage of the many business benefits available in Washington."

Klickitat County Commissioner Don Struck said the decision was a blow.

"I'm really disappointed. It was such a good fit," Struck said. "The owner of the business lives in Goldendale. It's frustrating."

Struck pointed out that the county had been working to smooth the way for Huggy Bear's relocating to the Dallesport site for almost two years.

Despite the setback, Sherwood said she remained optimistic about the Dallesport industrial site.

"We're all really disappointed, but it's not like the Port doesn't have other companies interested," she explained. "And they still may end up relocating here later."

Sherwood added that the Port of Klickitat has entered into a "memorandum of understanding" with Klickitat County, whereby the county will take the lead in marketing the Dallesport industrial site.

"We have a couple prospects, and are working with a few others," Struck said.

On Nov. 4, 2003, the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners agreed to submit an application on Huggy Bear's behalf for a state rural development loan of $700,000. The cash would have gone to help provide "working capital" to move the company from Portland to Dallesport. Huggy Bears also applied to obtain a $200,000 loan from the Mid-Columbia Economic Development Department.

Commissioner Don Struck noted, however, that the loans were contingent on the company moving into the county. No money had yet been provided to the company.

"It was part of a construction loan for their building," he said. "The lot is ready, but no building has been started."

In recent months, the county has invested in infrastructure at the industrial park, with leveling and grading the parcel and paving the road to the site. Huggy Bears was planning on building a 55,000 square foot facility.

"It's all ready for a building to go on there," Struck said. "It's too bad."

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