The economic outlook in Bingen and neighboring communities got brighter and clearer last week with Insitu, Inc.’s announcement that it plans to centralize its unmanned aerial system production facilities on Bingen Point.
Insitu, which is headquartered in Bingen, intends to construct a 70,000-square-foot production facility and a 30,000-square-foot engine testing building on Klickitat County Port District property starting in 2013 and concluding in 2014. Once occupied, the two buildings will house all of Insitu’s production operations.
“Insitu has achieved extraordinary growth in no small part to its agility,” Steve Morrow, Insitu’s president and chief executive officer, said in a Dec. 14 news release. “A more mature, efficient production operation in the Columbia River Gorge area will enable us to be even more responsive and affordable in meeting growing customer needs, ultimately allowing us to be more competitive and positioning Insitu well for future growth.”
Currently, Insitu has facilities in Bingen, White Salmon, Hood River and Stevenson. Employees in Stevenson, who support production, will move to Bingen when the new production buildings are ready. Insitu spokesperson Jill Vacek added that no job reductions will occur at the company — an independent subsidiary of The Boeing Company that employs 800 people in the Gorge — as a result of the change in facilities.
Moreover, Insitu is maintaining its off-site operations in White Salmon’s Park Center and Hood River’s Waucoma Building but “will continue to evaluate opportunities to make our operations more efficient and staff at a level consistent with business and customer needs,” Vacek noted.
Gov. Christine Gregoire hailed Insitu’s decision to expand its base of operations in the Gorge as “fantastic news for the entire state of Washington, and a testament to our commitment to ensuring business success.”
“Insitu’s decision to grow here didn’t come easy; Washington state certainly faced competition,” Gregoire said on Dec. 14. “I am well aware that the company had considered other locations in other states for this expansion. I commend the work of my staff and our state’s Department of Commerce, who worked tirelessly to ensure Insitu understood the advantages of doing business in Washington state, and ultimately chose to grow here.”
In 2009, Insitu announced it was looking for property in the Gorge for a business campus — one that would meet the company’s current and future needs. After evaluating multiple sites in the region, Insitu settled on Port District property at Bingen Point. Insitu and the Port District expect to finalize and sign a lease for the Bingen facilities by next summer.
“After careful consideration, we are moving forward with a plan that matches our current needs and a location that can accommodate growth,” Morrow said. “We will continue to right-size our facilities, as necessary, to meet our business objectives.”
Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes said Insitu’s decision to stay in the Gorge should have a “ripple effect” through the local economy and make it easier for support businesses and individuals in the local communities to make their own financial decisions.
“I think we will start seeing some growth in the area just based on the announcement alone,” Barnes said, and added, “This is the best Christmas present our area could have received.”
Jason Spadaro, president of SDS Lumber Co., also welcomed the news. (SDS and Dickey Farm jointly put together a proposal for Insitu’s consideration as part of the site evaluation process initiated in 2009.)
“SDS Lumber and many other businesses have worked hard, through up and down economic cycles, to create a healthy local economy and community,” Spadaro said. “So we are very happy that Boeing and Insitu have chosen to continue their investment here, as any significant departure would have caused lasting impacts to our communities. We loudly applaud their decision, and their renewed commitment to the local community, and wish them every success.”
Klickitat County commissioners Rex Johnston, David Sauter and Ray Thayer issued this statement: “We have long and anxiously awaited Insitu’s announcement regarding their selected location of a base for continued growth and development. We are profoundly pleased and genuinely appreciate that Insitu has selected the Bingen Point site.”