STEVEN FRIEDERICH | THE DAILY WORLD
The railroad in McCleary crosses diagonally through a recently purchase tract of more than 300 acres, zoned mainly industrial and commercial. Neighbors are buzzing with what the sale may mean for the sleepy community.
STEVEN FRIEDERICH | THE DAILY WORLD
This paved area and storage shed in McCleary was built as part of a pole yard spearheaded by Port Blakely Tree Farms some years ago that never really took off. The land and nearby parcels were sold to a Bellevue company for a purpose that hasn’t been made public yet.
A company planning to build a steel pipe manufacturing facility has purchased a huge swath of industrial land in northern McCleary and says it will invest $200 million and their initial phase will create 400 “new direct jobs” by late 2014.
“There is a possibility it could generate even more jobs over a period of time,” McCleary Mayor Gary Dent said Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve been through some tough times and I vowed to myself that this town wouldn’t die, so I’m very excited.”
Seven parcels making up 350.7 acres were sold on Dec. 21 to Bellevue-based USA Investment Group LLC for a combined $2.695 million, according to sale records with Grays Harbor County. The large swath of land could take up as much as a quarter of all the land within the McCleary city limits.
The company announced its plans on Tuesday, after The Daily World started looking into the land sales, filed a public records request with the City of McCleary and made inquiries with a lawyer representing the company.
“The project will provide a beneficial impact to the community, provide jobs, and provide a boost to local, regional and national economies,” reads a statement by Bellevue law firm Tse & Associates, representing the company. “The pipe produced by the plant will be used in oil and gas exploration and production in the USA and Canada. The company anticipates that the rapidly increasing demand for the product due to expanding domestic oil and gas exploration will ensure a successful project. The plant and operations will be designed to be eco-friendly with minimal impact to the local environment. The project is in the early planning stages and hopes to be operational in late 2014.”
The land sale created a buzz among neighbors, especially since the name of the buyer is similar to U.S. Development Group LLC, which was looking into installing a bulk liquid rail logistics facility at Terminal 3 at the Port of Grays Harbor to export oil from the Port of Grays Harbor.
Charla Skaggs, a spokeswoman with U.S. Development Group, says her client is “not related in any way to U.S. Investment Group” and that it’s merely a coincidence that the two groups have similar names. Incorporation records filed with the Washington Secretary of State’s Office also show the two companies, and related affiliates, have different managing partners and different addresses.
The land is located on the largest tract of unimproved industrial land within the city limits of McCleary, neighboring the existing Simpson Door Plant.
The sale documents are signed by Qin Sun, the managing partner of USA Investment Group LLC, who lists a Bellevue home address. Contact information wasn’t listed. He’s represented by attorney Bennett Tse of Tse & Associates. Tse’s website shows his office in Bellevue and the website has an option to be read in English or Chinese.
A statement released by Tse’s office says, “Over the next few months, USA Investment Group intends to develop a regulatory road map and associated project schedule to ensure all essential components are appropriately evaluated.”
The statement says the company “is excited to work closely with the citizens in and around McCleary and appropriate regulatory agencies to thoroughly evaluate the effects of such a development. USA Investment Group is committed to a slow and steady process to continuously focus on respect of the environment, and a full partnership with local (the) community.”
A legal assistant for Tse’s office referred any other questions about the company back to the city of McCleary.
Mayor Dent said that the city stands ready to help the company with its permit process. He didn’t immediately know all of the permits the company will need. His public works director also was gone on Tuesday.
“The zoning is right and we’ll do what it takes to make sure all of the rules are followed,” Dent said.
McCleary will benefit from the sale, not just from building and planning application fees, but from an increase in property taxes, as the property is likely re-appraised by the county. The city also has its own power utility and would sell electricity directly to the new industrial customer, Dent said.
Dent said the city does not have a B&O tax, but he says the city has been considering implementing one.
“Obviously, that’s something we need to look at more now,” Dent said.
Port Blakely sold two parcels for $1.6 million. The larger is 232 acres with 15 acres of improved property that has been paved and fenced off. The second parcel, just 14 acres, has an AT&T cell tower on it. The telecommunications company holds a lease for the land, which the title records show must still be honored by the new buyer. The parcels together are zoned industrial, although some if the land is designated forest land.
The remainder of the land was owned by McDonald Land Co., which received $1.095 million for the 104.7 acres, much of it zoned commercial with some designated forest land. The McDonald title includes a clause noting, “the land that is forested will remain forest land for the foreseeable future,” specifically noting the land will be harvested in about 10 years and after that, it “will be restocked to grow commercial timber.” Because of county tax breaks on forestland, without that clause, the property owners may have been on the hook to pay an increase in property taxes.
Neighbors of the McCleary property along Larson Road say that Port Blakely Tree Farms tried to install a facility some years back where trees could be crafted into wooden utility poles. Part of the property was paved, some infrastructure was put on site, including a well, and a large garage/pole building was built. The facility never took off and it has been dormant for years.
Mayor Dent said he’s been personally marketing the property for several years. In 2010, the state Department of Corrections took a look at the site to see if it could possibly house a new 1,000-bed state prison intake center. The site almost became the state’s third choice, which would have made it one of the eligible finalists for further consideration, but it was knocked down a notch when the state changed its qualifications at the last second.
The 350.7 acres make up the entire northwest section of town between Larson Road on the northern boundary and Church Road on the southern boundary. The railroad cuts through the middle of it and the southern end is right off Exit 108 on Highway 12.
All of the land is within the city limits of McCleary, which means any building permits or zoning changes would need to go through the city of McCleary’s planning and building processes.