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Port Seeks Low Interest Loan

Buildings at Bingen Point are full

By SVERRE BAKKE

The Enterprise

Port of Klickitat officials will find out later this month if their bid for $1 million in building construction financing is approved.

Executive director Dianne Sherwood will travel to Sea-Tac on May 19 to present the port district's request to the state Community Economic Revitalization Board.

Sherwood is guardedly optimistic about the port district's chances in her third appearance before CERB.

"I don't have a sense of what the board is going to do because I'm asking for the maximum amount," Sherwood said. "But I'm hopeful we will be funded. I've been successful every time I've gone before CERB."

The port is seeking a low-interest loan of $525,000 and a grant of $475,000 from CERB. It would meet the required 25 percent local match with $100,000 of its own money and $300,000 secured through local financial arrangements to bring the total project cost to $1.4 million.

Port officials want to construct a 12,000- to 15,000-square-foot building at Bingen Point for two existing tenants--Insitu Group, Inc., and Mountain Home Biological--in need of additional space.

Noted Sherwood: "We think we can afford a 15,000-square-foot building based on the cost estimates our engineers have provided and in the bidding climate we have now. But with the price of steal, that could change any day."

A selling point in its CERB application's favor may be that the port district has no more space to offer Insitu Group and Mountain Home Biological. Thanks to its tenants' own successes, every square inch of building space at Bingen Point is in use.

The down side to that, however, is that the lack of available space is preventing the port district from attracting new business clients.

"It is important to continue building on the success of prior efforts, thereby allowing businesses that have been grown within incubator spaces at Bingen Point the opportunity to expand without having to look outside the state for available space," port officials wrote in their application.

"The port has two existing tenants waiting for available space in which to expand," the application stated. "They are both great success stories for CERB, the port and for incubator buildings."

Insitu Group currently leases all 25,000 square feet of the district's light manufacturing facility known as Building 1D--which was designed to support about 75 employees--plus 4,518 square feet in the 10,240-square-foot business development center built with CERB assistance in the 1990s and identified as Building 1A.

A port tenant since December 1996, Insitu is a recognized leader in the research, development and production of miniature unmanned robotic aircraft for military and commercial applications. Its workforce has grown from four in 2002 to 70 today.

According to the port's CERB application, the company's "continued growth requires yet more additional space." Under a contingency agreement with the port, Insitu would take up two-thirds of a new building's space.

Additional room to grow in would permit Insitu--based on its own business projections--to increase the number it employs by as many as 30 over a three-year period starting in 2006.

"If interest from our customers continues to grow we could be at over 100 employees sometime in 2006," noted Steve Sliwa, Insitu's president and chief executive officer. "So we need space to continue growing to respond to the demand for our products."

Among the companies Insitu does business with is aerospace and defense contracting giant The Boeing Company.

Late last month, the U.S. Navy awarded Boeing a $14.5 million contract to oversee the further development and production of Insitu's unmanned spy plane, called the ScanEagle, for primary use in reconnaissance missions in Iraq.

Mountain Home Biological, which supplies schools with biological and living specimens, would take up the remaining space in a new building.

A port tenant since September 2001, Mountain Home would move out of the 2,560 square feet it occupies in Building 1A and, over three years, create from four to seven new jobs in addition to its current number of six.

Another key to the project, from the port's standpoint, is that relocating a portion of Insitu's operations and all of Mountain Home Biological's would free up 7,078 square feet of space in Building 1A for new tenants and "allow for the potential of 6-10 new jobs".

"This project, and the resulting employment and subsequent need for services (multipliers) would supplement the county's revenue base over time by providing jobs for residents," port officials stated in the CERB application.

An estimated schedule in the application notes preliminary engineering work on the project would be ready by July, followed by bid award and the start of construction in November and the completion and opening of the facility in June 2006.

Since 1992, the port district--in partnership with local, state and federal funding agencies--has overseen the investment of more than $7.5 million on Bingen Point in infrastructure (roads and fill material), utilities (water, sewer, electricity, telephony), and 50,566 square feet of industrial space. CERB has put in $2.3 million to bring those improvements about.

"CERB is already invested in Bingen Point, they've seen our success and are happy with what's going on here," Sherwood said, adding, "Those are some of the factors that will go into their analysis of our newest application."

In addition to Insitu Group and Mountain Home Biological, the port district's Bingen Point business park tenants are Innovative Composite Engineering, which fabricates advanced composite products for the aerospace, industrial, automotive and recreational sectors; Roy-G-Biv, which develops software for robotics used in manufacturing; and Plan 9, the inventor of such products as the CookShack home smoker and the water-saving Wow Shower.

The five companies together employ 101 full-time employees and 10 consultants, according to the port district's CERB application.

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