Dan Joyce, Malheur County judge, listens to a presentation about county-sponsored industrial development in Nyssa at the Wednesday, Dec. 11, meeting of the Malheur County Court. (The Enterprise/Joe Siess)
VALE – Malheur County will have to come up with an estimated $14 million to turn raw farm land into an industrial park that would draw in new employers, state records show.
The money, from a source the county hasn’t identified, would pay for streets, utilities and a new fire station on land next to the proposed Treasure Valley Reload Center. The millions in additional costs are on top of the $26 million the state has put up to build the Nyssa rail shipping center.
County officials last week conducted a public briefing on their plans for the industrial development. They didn’t share their calculations about what the county needs to build the industrial park. County Judge Dan Joyce and Commissioners Don Hodge and Larry Wilson didn’t respond to written questions about the multi-million dollar hole in their plans.
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Greg Smith, the county economic development director, responded to questions by telling a reporter “I don’t think you understand the program. Keep studying.”
The Enterprise has submitted questions to Smith for more than a month to ask how the county would fund the costly work to make the Nyssa land ready for potential employers.
The Enterprise learned of the costs through records submitted by the county to Business Oregon, the state economic development department. Joyce signed the application about two weeks before last week’s public session.
The disclosure comes after other records showed that county officials were planning to take $1 million from the county’s contingency fund to pay for about 290 acres of Nyssa farmland. That information was contained in records obtained by the Enterprise from the state.
The county also is going into debt to buy that land, borrowing $2 million.
The county also intended to buy another parcel in Nyssa owned by Nyssa Industries. The fate of that purchase is unclear and the county has pushed off to March closing the deal.
“A development plan for the Nyssa Industries Property has not been prepared yet,” the county’s documents said.
DOCUMENT: Malheur County cost projection
The county told the state that it planned to put $10 million of county money into “site structure development” that isn’t further described, $2 million for roads, $1 million for utilities and $750,000 for “land assembly” for an “on site fire station.” These features are separate from what’s needed to open the Treasure Valley Reload Center.
The application said the major industrial land work wouldn’t be done until 2025 and that other development work would stretch to 2032.
The costs were part of the county’s application to get the Nyssa project classified by state officials as a “regional significant industrial site.”
Under such a program, the county could be reimbursed for its costs in developing the land. To do so, at least one company would have to locate in Nyssa, hire at least 25 workers and pay them wages 50% higher than the median pay currently in Malheur County.
If the county qualified, the state would divert half the state income taxes paid by those workers back to the county.
The county’s application said the industrial land could host 300 jobs, but doesn’t provide any information on the source of that estimate or the time frame.
DOCUMENT: Nyssa industrial park map
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.