The community will soon be reaping what has been sown for years, growing the economy with a new agriculture park.
An impressive number of public and private community partners will soon be reaping what has been being sown for several years, growing the economy with a new agriculture park.
The Southwest Washington Regional Agricultural Business & Innovation Park is targeted to open in Tenino in 2020. The Park will focus exclusively on food-related value-added manufacturing, processing and packaging. It is designed to:
- Increase local and regional food production
- Expand existing markets for agricultural goods, and develop new ones
- Create 150+ jobs in the agricultural business sector
- Increase value and revenue from food and farm businesses throughout the region
- Identify and address ag-related infrastructure and distribution needs
“We’re looking forward to providing support for our regional agriculture community,” shared Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier. “It’s hard for small local farms to be competitive and viable. Providing infrastructure at a facility like this, taking advantage of economy of scale, will improve farmers’ livelihoods.”
The Thurston EDC’s Center for Business & Innovation has been leading the charge on development of the Ag Park, with the City of Tenino a close partner every step of the way. In fact, the city is potentially providing the land where the park will be located. Another site in Tenino, currently privately owned, is also being considered.
The Ag Park will also locate at one location, multiple technical service providers that will support rural and agricultural businesses – not only park tenants, but rural-based businesses throughout Thurston, Lewis, Grays and Pierce counties.
Another benefit of the Ag park is tourism, with the vision to eventually include a tourist center at the facility. The park will be located smack dab in the middle of Thurston County’s Bountiful Byway which focuses on agritourism– getting people out into the countryside, exploring our region’s rural heritage and experiencing first-hand where their food comes from.
Mayor Fournier is already capitalizing on the Bountiful Byway and rural tourism as Tenino continues to develop attractions to draw visitors—building on the City’s park—which includes a campground, museum and the “world famous” Quarry Pool. But the Mayor and city staff have their sights on more substantial assistance, helping farmers with infrastructure that allows them to move beyond hobby farming to being competitive in an expanded marketplace. “It’s all about value-added,” tells the Mayor. “Selling on the commodities market, a producer never knows what they will get for their crops, but usually it’s not going to be very much. When you value-add, you create a product that people will pay more for—turn your tomatoes into salsa or cabbage into sauerkraut. Located here, right along the I-5 corridor, we have markets from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver B.C. where people will pay top-dollar for local, specialty and organic foods.”
For years, dozens of partners have been working together with a common vision, building bridges to bring the Ag Park project to life. These regional relationships – including partners like the Northwest Agricultural Business Center (NABC), Thurston Regional Planning Council, Thurston Conservation District, Centralia College, Lewis County Farm Bureau and the Visitor & Convention Bureau– have helped advance the park.
Earlier this year, significant progress came with $618,000 in funding for site development from the Washington State Department of Commerce through the state capital budget, and $75,000 from the Port of Olympia to begin the master planning of the park.
Staying the course, fostering synergy…the catalysts for the new ag park.
In 2009, the EDC created the South Thurston Economic Development Initiative (STEDI), a consortium focused on long-range economic and community development in the rural areas of the Thurston region. STEDI works to engage the collective strengths and resources of the communities of Yelm, Rainier, Tenino, Bucoda and Rochester/Grand Mound. The Southwest Washington Regional Agriculture Business & Innovation Park is one of the projects that emerged from these efforts.
In 2012 the five Pacific Mountain region EDC’s, which include, Thurston, Mason, Grays Harbor, Pacific and Lewis counties, working in partnership with the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, commissioned an Industry Cluster Study that identified food production as one of the top 5 industries within the region.
STEDI and the Cluster Study laid the ground work that is now fully being realized through the Thurston Community Economic Alliance (TCEA), a county-wide economic development strategic plan that was launched in 2016 by the Thurston EDC with input from over 180 public and private partners. The TCEA has created an economic development partnership which leverages broad-based, county-wide partnerships to coordinate economic development activities, identify goals to attract investment and develop a long term strategy to support and diversify the regional economy.
The Ag Park is seen as a signature project of the TCEA—demonstrating how a great many partners can combine and coordinate efforts to build something new and innovating that will bolster a key regional industry and bring new prosperity to our community.
We will keep you updated as the Ag Park project continues to develop.
If you’re interested in locating your ag business at the Park or want additional information, contact EDC staff, Aslan Meade at 360-464-6054 or [email protected]