By Kristi Pihl, November 22, 2014, Tri-City Herald
Port of Pasco and city of Connell officials want to use Franklin County dairies to attract a milk processing company to the Connell Industrial Area east of Highway 395.
The port recently received a $50,000 state Community Economic Revitalization Board grant to develop a proposal to recruit a dairy facility to Connell.
Port and city officials want to use a similar strategy to the one that proved a winner in bringing food processors to the Pasco Processing Center — providing waste water treatment.
Gary Ballew, the port’s director of economic development and marketing, said they will develop specifics on what a waste water treatment facility would involve, including how to pay for one.
If the city and port provide the water treatment, it allows a company to focus on processing milk, Ballew said. The processor still would pay for it, but it would be over time instead of an upfront cost of having to build a facility itself.
He said they also look at whether the local dairy industry is large enough to support a milk processing plant. It could save the cost of the milk being trucked to Connell rather than to Sunnyside or another location.
Adams, Franklin and Grant counties have 40 dairies, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of those, 14 are in Franklin County.
Franklin County dairies produced $113.3 million worth of milk in 2012, almost three times as much as those dairies did five years earlier.
Franklin County is the fifth largest dairy county in the state. Its dairy cow population grew by 88 percent to 12,000 between 2006 and 2011, according to a 2013 Washington State University study.
Ballew said they looked for an industry that would choose Connell over the Tri-Cities, since Connell shares a labor pool with the Tri-Cities, and many who work in Connell live in the Tri-Cities.
Port and city officials want to grow Connell’s taxbase and create more jobs. The largest industry in Connell is the ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston plant. Agriculture, the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center and the North Franklin School District are among the largest employers.
“We hope to diversify our job base,” City Administrator Jed Crowther said.
The Connell Industrial Area includes 210 acres. Some of the property is farmed, but the rest is vacant. Thirty of those acres are owned by the city and used for a waste water treatment facility.
Crowther said it appears to be a good fit to convert from agriculture to industry because it is within city limits, zoned industrial and has infrastructure already available.
The port and city will match the grant with $17,500, although officials also hope to receive money from the Hanford Area Economic Investment Fund.