Port of Portland Made
by Editorial Board
When the Port of Portland first broached the idea of buying the former Reynolds aluminum plant in Troutdale in the early 2000s, its interest was met with skepticism and even hostility from some who feared what the port might do with the 700-acre site.
Nearly a decade later, however, it is now obvious that without the port's resources, the good things that are happening in Troutdale would not have been possible. The port and the city last week announced that the second phase of development in the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park is moving ahead.
This phase will bring nine new lots to market on 180 acres. Port and Troutdale officials also are working with the Oregon Department of Transportation on a federal grant request to help pay for road and trail connections at the site.
The second phase of the industrial park follows the launch of the FedEx regional distribution hub that already is employing 800 people on 78 acres. Eventually, a third phase of the industrial park will be developed, bringing the total number of jobs at the industrial park to an estimated 3,500.
The success of the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park provides some key lessons in economic development. The first is that redevelopment of an environmentally compromised property (the old aluminum plant was a federal Superfund site) requires both deep pockets and plenty of time. We cannot imagine another party besides the port that would have had the patience to wait for the cleanup of the site and then have the resources necessary to provide infrastructure and marketing to attract potential tenants.
Another lesson is the importance of partnerships. No city large or small can do economic development on its own. The buildout of the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park has required, and will require, the cooperation of the city, the port, the state and federal governments and many other entities in the public and private sectors.
A final lesson is the need for flexibility. The port's original idea for the Reynolds site - an intermodal rail facility - proved unpopular with the community and it eventually was abandoned in favor of the industrial-park concept. But the port also worked with local communities to identify what types of development and jobs would be most desirable at the site. Along the way, it improved the environment and increased recreational opportunities by setting aside half of the property for such purposes.
The Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park is unique in the Portland-metro area because it offers fairly sizable tracts of industrial land with easy access to Interstate 84, two airports and rail lines. But all of those assets could very well have been underutilized or even squandered if the port hadn't stepped in to guide development.
The community now can look forward to hearing future announcements about new employers interested in locating in Troutdale - providing job opportunities to hundreds of people throughout East Multnomah County.
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