Amidst community concerns about its proposed site for a business and manufacturing campus off N Main Avenue in White Salmon, Sagetech Corporation continued to consider multiple options.
Last Thursday, Sagetech and the Lyle School District announced they have entered into a 10-year lease for the shuttered Dallesport Elementary School at the corner of Central Boulevard and 6th Avenue, in Dallesport.
Sagetech, a leader in developing certified miniature avionics that allows drones to operate safely within the same airspace as manned aircraft, currently operates in five facilities in White Salmon. The two most visible locations are on E Jewett Boulevard.
The company plans to move its headquarters and consolidate most of its engineering and manufacturing operations from White Salmon to the former Dallesport school facility, near the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport, according to Tom Furey, Sagetech’s chief operating officer.
“Sagetech has enjoyed significant growth in both our avionics and our unmanned aircraft system, or UAS, component manufacturing businesses. We’ve been seeking a way to consolidate our operations while remaining centrally located to our talented employee base,” Furey said. “The Dallesport location offers a perfect facility for our company to continue to grow.”
Furey said Sagetech elected not to pursue development of the N Main location because of the time and cost involved in constructing a new facility from scratch. Sagetech has 85 employees; most of them live in the White Salmon area.
The company was looking at a March hearing in front of the Klickitat County Planning Commission for its rezone and Comp Plan amendment, from residential to commercial designations.
“First, we’re growing so rapidly that timing [for a facility upgrade] was important,” Furey said. “Second, the cost of doing it this way is a whole lot better. It’s going to cost maybe less than half of what it would cost to build a new building.”
The School District said Sagetech will be making extensive renovations to the Dallesport school building at its own expense during the first six months of the lease while transitioning its operations from White Salmon to Dalles-port.
Aside from the headquarters administrative functions, the new facility will consolidate research and development of miniature avionics, as well as manufacturing, repair, and refurbishment operations for UAS composite and electronics assemblies.
Furey said Sagetech can operate in the former school and refurbish it to meet its needs while the Klickitat County Planning Department considers the Lyle School District’s application for a rezone of the property.
“We hope to be in the building by the end of this calendar year,” Furey said.
Sagetech notified the Klickitat County Planning Department last week that it intends to withdraw its application for a rezone and a Comprehensive Plan amendment for the N Main property.
“At this point, Sagetech has not withdrawn their rezone application, but we do anticipate receiving a withdrawal notice soon,” noted Lori Anderson, spokesperson for the Planning Department.
“After we receive the notice, we will be contacting everyone who commented on that rezone proposal,” to advise them it has been pulled from consideration, she said.
The Lyle School Board approved the lease during its regular meeting on Jan. 23. The agreement, according to Superintendent An-drew Kelly, creates a valuable partnership opportunity for the community of Dallesport and the students and staff of the Lyle School District.
“Sagetech will be a powerful partner for the Lyle School District for years to come,” Kelly related. “The lease revenue will provide a stable funding stream to support ongoing upgrades and renovation to all district properties. This benefit to our students and staff is immense.”
Kelly indicated the lease revenue will be dedicated to facility improvements on the Lyle campus.
The Lyle School District built the Dallesport Elementary School in 1996, at a time the district’s enrollment was growing and projections pointed upward.
Klickitat County played a role in the establishment of the school, which was built to replace a 41-year-old “temporary” facility. The county zoned the property, which used to be part of a large community park, Public to allow for placement of the school, and deeded the land to the School District to address ownership.
Since the elementary school opened, the district’s enrollment has decreased. That led to the decision in 2016 to consolidate elementary classrooms into the Lyle Secondary School and create a pre-K through 12 school.
Now it’s the Lyle School District that is seeking to rezone the Dalles-port property to serve a greater community good.
Anderson said district officials have approached the Planning Department and “are in the process of applying for a zone change, most likely to Airport Development.”
She added that planners are researching the Comprehensive Plan designation for the property to see if a comp plan amendment will be required.
The benefits of the merger have included the more efficient use of resources and greater continuity of students’ education, Kelly noted. Now, with Sagetech’s lease of the Dallesport building, the renewed vitality the district is experiencing will be visible in the Dallesport community as well.
Sagetech already has demonstrated its willingness to contribute to the quality of life of the greater Lyle/Dallesport community, Kelly pointed out.
He said the lease includes the preservation of the children’s playground on the Dallesport campus and the district’s softball field and track practice facility. The company has committed $10,000 for the district to make improvements to the fields in time for this spring’s sports seasons.
In addition, beginning with the graduating class of 2018, Sagetech will be offering at least two $2,500 scholarships to Lyle High School seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) fields.
“Sagetech recognizes the role and responsibility the company has in motivating young people to pursue STEM careers,” Furey noted. “By providing these scholarships as well as job shadowing and internships within our company, we are helping create a future force of employees who qualify for highly technical and high-paying STEM jobs. This solution represents a win for the community, a win for the Lyle School District, and a win for Sagetech.”
Phil Williams, chairman of the Lyle School Board, said the School District’s press release covered the pros of the partnership with Sage-tech. The release is posted on the Lyle School District Web page.
Williams added, “I will say that not having a large empty building sitting vacant in the middle of the community will be a plus for everyone. Sagetech is already giving back to the community with scholarships for students, internship opportunities, and improvements for the athletic facilities in Dalles-port.”
Lyle School District residents are encouraged to contact Kelly directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 509-365-2191 for questions about the lease agreement and future of the Dallesport school facility.