Nyssa embraces recent spate of growth

Kiersten Kramer, manager of Cattle Drive Coffee in Nyssa, said business is good for her small shop. The business, owned by Clint Koplin, is one of several new businesses that opened in town last year. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

NYSSA – Thirteen years after 190 jobs vanished when the Amalgamated Sugar Company plant halted production, Nyssa is growing again.

“There are a lot of cool things happening in Nyssa,” said Jim Maret, city manager.

Those include five businesses that opened their doors in the last year. More businesses, he said, are on the way.

The new businesses in town are Gem Auto Glass, Apple Valley Pizza, Cattle Drive Coffee, Main Street Second Hand and Valeria’s Mexican Restaurant.

Two elements sparked the growth, said Maret. First, he said, the city put renewed focus on economic development over the past five years.

A second contributing factor, he said, is the rail reload facility planned just north of town.

“That I think started it and it just snowballed,” said Maret.

The rail facility is viewed as a major economic game changer for Malheur County.

Farm products would be trucked in and loaded on to trains for shipment across the country. The facility is projected to open in 2020 with seven year-round and up to 19 seasonal employees. Once fully developed, the number of jobs could be as much as 150. Local officials await a final decision by state transportation officials approving plans for the new shipping center. If transportation officials sign off on the plan about $23 million will be released to kick start construction. Construction could begin as soon as this spring.

Jon Wood, a vice president of the Nyssa Chamber of Commerce, said Nyssa is finally coming out of a “funk” that set in created when the sugar factory stopped most of its production in 2005.

“That was a pretty big kick in the teeth,” said Wood. “But I think we are starting to see the benefit of just pushing along.”

Wood said just the idea of the rail reload facility created economic interest in Nyssa.

“All of the sudden that is becoming a reality,” said Wood. Wood said he realized the new economic paradigm recently when he helped sell his sister’s home in town.

“It was on the market 11 days. Those kinds of things haven’t happened in a long, long time,” said Wood.

Maret said Nyssa’s rural lifestyle also attracts businesses and people.

“I think they see what everyone sees. We’ve been this quiet little sleepy town and we have great schools, great law enforcement.” said Maret.

But growth, and especially construction of a major new facility outside of town, will produce more traffic, especially through Nyssa’s downtown.

A recently completed traffic study shows there will be a boost in truck traffic on U.S. Highway 20 to the rail reload facility. At final “build out” the rail reload center will generate about 2,000 vehicle trips – mostly trucks – a day. About 60 percent of that traffic would be from the north toward town. An estimated 40 percent of traffic would cross the Snake River and go through downtown Nyssa. Maret said he isn’t worried about a boost in traffic through downtown.

“The thing it will do for us, obviously, is create some traffic flow issues to a certain extent and maybe a little more work for our police force and our public works department. But, as you grow larger you are going to have some growing pains,” said Maret. Maret said more traffic is a good thing.

“They are going to stop and eat somewhere, not all of them obviously, but some of them will. Or they will stop to get a tire fixed so it will create business for us,” said Maret. Wood, who is the programs coordinator for the Nyssa School District, said growth is evident.

“We are feeling that at our elementary school level. Our enrollment is up,” said Wood. Ray Rau, Nyssa police chief, said increased traffic through town wouldn’t impact his department.

“You’d be surprised by the amount of cars that go through town now anyways. I think you’ll have a lot more traffic flow north of town,” said Rau.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.