The Portland region has 14 vacant large sites that are ready to go for a potential major industrial employer, analysts said Wednesday, with another 40 that could be ready with more investment.
The report on industrial site readiness was part of a years-long effort by Metro, and other partners, to look at what's needed to bring big industrial employers to the Portland region. The effort has paid off: Three sites identified in the original inventory have been developed, with $38 million in new investments and 416 jobs coming to the Portland region.
But with the inventory, planners and business leaders continue to hammer home one key point – local and regional leaders will need to continue to work hard to get the region's large industrial sites shovel-ready. The work focuses on sites that are 25 acres or larger.
Of the 54 potential large-lot industrial sites in the latest inventory, 23 are called Tier 3 sites – the hardest to develop. Under even the best conditions, it could take years to get Tier 3 sites ready for a new industrial development.
Those Tier 3 sites need brownfield cleanup, pipes for water and sewer lines or transportation improvements that can cost millions of dollars. Some sites have several owners, and need special attention to ensure they can be used to attract one large employment center.
Still, there's good news – eight industrial sites have come off the Tier 3 list, and are closer to development.
The topic is of special interest to the Metro Policy Advisory Committee, which is carefully watching to see if Metro will consider expanding the urban growth boundary in 2015 to add more industrial land.
"The draft urban growth report identifies a surplus of large industrial sites," said Metro deputy planning director John Williams. "The actual supply of market-ready sites is a lot smaller than the number that's in the urban growth report."
The urban growth report sets the stage for the decisions of 2015, forecasting what the next 20 years of growth in the region could look like. Metro is required to ensure there's enough land to accommodate two decades of growth inside the UGB.
"The job creation that's called for will only happen if we keep developing that pipeline of sites," Williams said.
After a presentation on the inventory at Wednesday's MPAC meeting, Lake Oswego City Councilor Jeff Gudman asked Williams whether he thought the current surplus would prevent Metro from expanding the UGB.
Williams said he thought the need for new employment land in the region might be at the higher end of Metro's forecast range, if recent trends were to continue.
"If we plan for the higher end of the range, what's the policy response? What is the investment response?" Williams asked. "We have sites, but some of them have serious challenges to market readiness. We want to make use of the land we have, both to make those central locations available… and because of the practicalities of getting infrastructure to sites that are farther out."
Gudman pressed for a yes-or-no answer.
"We, as a group, will have to make a recommendation on expansion or non-expansion of the urban growth boundary" in 2015, Gudman said. "At this point in time, is this driving us to a recommendation of no expansion because it says we have a surplus? I want to see what the implications are of the industrial land at this point in time."
Williams said it depends on whether the Metro Council believes cities, counties and developers will make the investments needed to bring the region's industrial sites to market. If the council believes those investments will be made, there would not be a need for more industrial land in the UGB, he said, unless the Metro Council forecasts increased growth in the coming decades.
"Both of those cases will be the start of the conversation in 2015," Williams said. "Our intention right now is to provide the information to spark the discussion."