When we last spoke with Dru Garson, the chief executive officer of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. development organization, he took us through its work in increasing economic development. To see how things have progressed since the October 2015 article, we spoke with Dru once again.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from China is certainly continuing to impact economic development in Washington State. In 2016, there was about $45.6 billion worth of acquisitions and investments. When compared to 2015, that is a tripling of money into the area. This creates an amazing opportunity.
“Within Washington State alone, there were twelve major FDI deals accomplished between 2015 and 2016. The majority were within real estate and hospitality industries. Based on this level of activity, the Washington Coast has tremendous potential for investments within our local hotel and hospitality industry,” says Dru.
Recently, Grays Harbor County hosted a delegation from China. This visit was a great opportunity for the delegation to familiarize themselves with the county and some of the assets that could present unique industrial and hospitality investment opportunities. The key is to establish relationships, and this visit may lead to the possibility of a trade visit to China later this spring involving several of the area’s regional economic development council partners.
The business expansion and retention program is hard at work in the harbor. “We surveyed almost one hundred businesses which represent about five percent of the registered businesses in the county. Within the next eighteen months, slightly more than half of respondents plan on expanding their businesses, so that’s a very encouraging sign within the county,” says Dru.
“Additionally, many local companies confirmed what residents of our communities already know – namely that people live here for the slower pace of life, affordable cost of living, immediate access to wilderness and outdoor recreation, and for our cohesive community. Businesses also acknowledged the strong support from local governments and our robust infrastructure – including port, rail, and highway systems.”
Within Grays Harbor, a variety of new projects and businesses have recently expanded into Satsop Business Park. Satsop is owned and managed by the Port of Grays Harbor and offers more than 600 acres of developable land, robust utilities and a variety of facilities to private and public organizations looking to invest, employ and grow in Grays Harbor.
Over the past year, three new companies have signed leases at the park. This includes Xpress Natural Gas, a compressed natural gas facility, and Fuller Hill Development Company, a 50,000 square foot cannabis cultivation facility that will employ nearly seventy full-time employees. Grays Harbor also successfully recruited Overstock.com in 2016 and they will be opening a new call center at the Business Park.
“Overstock.com will occupy a 20,000 square foot facility and will employ 150 to 200 employees. We are excited to welcome Overstock.com to the region and look forward to working with them,” says Dru.
The business park is booming right now and there is plenty of capacity for additional development, including advanced manufacturing capabilities. “We have long known about the development potential of Satsop Business Park. It’s great to see domestic and international companies both recognize and capitalize on the possibilities,” says Dru.
The Gateway Center for Enterprise and Tourism project also continues to move forward and progress. This project, once completed, will consist of a 20,000 square foot facility designed to serve the needs of visitors and residents of the entire county. The Enterprise Center component of this project is designed to serve as a one-stop business development resource for both residents and visitors alike. The Center will serve as a clearinghouse of information that can assist individuals interested in relocation information, small business planning and development, and regional economic development opportunities within Grays Harbor.
The ultimate goal of this facility is to consolidate business and economic development resources into one location, create a greater awareness of destinations and attractions in Grays Harbor, attract increased investment, facilitate downtown revitalization efforts, and encourage increased spending and longer stays within the County.
Other projects and developments of note include Oyhut Bay. This project is a forty-three acre master-planned, mixed-use development at the south end of the Ocean Shores peninsula on the Washington coast. It’s located approximately 135 miles southwest of Seattle and is designed to include two hundred rental cabins, a restaurant, retail space, a grocery store, lodge and suites.
“There will be opportunities for people to purchase luxury cottages as well as rental cabins for visitors,” says Dru.
The health care industry has also grown significantly over the past few years in Grays Harbor. Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma, Washington is undergoing a $27 million expansion and plans to build a three-story, 60,000 square foot facility which will specialize in prevention and wellness and will be hiring additional primary healthcare providers. The wellness center will include physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
Grays Harbor Community Hospital is also seeking additional funding for an expansion of their facility. Their expansion will add an additional floor above the Emergency room and upgrade the helipad to accommodate military and Coast Guard aircraft for trauma patients.
At the Port of Grays Harbor, a dredging project is underway that will deepen the main navigation channel to thirty-eight feet. By deepening this channel, navigators’ transportation costs will be reduced, and it will improve efficiency and reliability of navigation to and from Grays Harbor.
“Many of these expansion projects will lead to an increase in local employment in our region. Grays Harbor College, one of our valued partners, can help bridge any gaps in our workforce and training needs. Their ability to react quickly and deploy resources in a strategic and effective manner is critical in ensuring a well trained workforce in Grays Harbor,” says Dru.
As Seattle and Portland continue to grow and become more congested, communities like Grays Harbor County will continue to become attractive alternatives for people searching for a more relaxed pace of life. Living in Grays Harbor is enticing as it is located along the coast with the mountains in the background. There are a plethora of natural amenities in this beautiful location and it is close to Olympic National Park and well suited for people who are looking to relax. People come to Grays Harbor to escape the rat race and be in a place where people know each other and can enjoy a standard of life that is truly rare in this day and age.