It has taken nearly three years and has often been “a long and winding road,” according to Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist, but by Aug. 30 the county plans to close on the purchase of the 192-acre former International Paper mill site in Millersburg.
Nyquist and Commissioner John Lindsey approved the $10 million purchase offer Tuesday morning. Commissioner Will Tucker is in Africa on a mission trip. A short-term loan will come from Linn County's road fund.
A portion of the property will be used to develop an intermodal truck-to-rail facility to transport agricultural and manufacturing products to ports in Portland, Tacoma and Seattle on rail cars instead of semitrucks.
The county took the action because a purchase option between the Albany-Millersburg Economic Development Corp. (AMEDC) and International Paper expired on July 31. AMEDC does not have funds to complete the transaction before being reimbursed by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Linn County will divide the property, breaking off an estimated 60 acres to create the intermodal facility. Purchase price will be set after an independent appraisal.
Nyquist said former State Rep. Andy Olson was the catalyst for the project, after seeing a similar proposal planned near Nyssa in eastern Oregon. Funding for both projects was approved last month by the Oregon Transportation Commission as part of the state’s long-term transportation improvement plan.
There were seven more applicants for a mid-valley project, ranging from Brooks to south of Eugene.
The Nyssa facility will be used primarily to reduce the cost of moving onions nationwide.
The Millersburg project’s main goal is to reduce traffic congestion on Interstate 5 and the Portland area, as well as to reduce carbon emissions.
“The county will have 130 to 150 acres that can be sold or leased,” Nyquist said. “We have been contacted by multiple parties interested in leasing or purchasing land next to the intermodal facility. Hundreds of jobs will be created.”
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Nyquist said mid-valley farmers have wrestled with how to cost effectively move their products to outlying markets for several years after issues at the Port of Portland prompted them to truck their goods to ports in Tacoma and Seattle, at significantly greater costs.
“This is an economic game-changer for our entire region,” Nyquist said. “It is not something we took lightly. This is going to create many jobs and benefit our farmers, manufacturers and distribution centers.”
Nyquist said the process was at times quite challenging.
“We have a nonprofit organization, AMEDC, applying for a $25 million government grant, to site a facility on property it does not own,” Nyquist said. “International Paper has been a diligent and patient partner.”
Lindsey said Nyquist took the lead on the project and deserves credit for seeing it through, especially at times when it appeared the process was about to implode.
“This is going to have a very long-term impact for our region,” Lindsey said. “The benefits will cut across a broad spectrum of our county. It’s what we have been looking for in terms of economic development.”
The intermodal facility will be overseen by the Linn Economic Development Group, an arm of AMEDC. Daily operations will be managed under contract with Northern Container, based in Portland.
Millersburg resident William Schrader told the commissioners he is “excited about the many opportunities this project will bring to the community.”
In addition to the 192 acres, the city of Millersburg owns 400 acres zoned industrial that abut the International Paper property.