After nearly two decades as a Linn County commissioner, Roger Nyquist said he's learned that “public infrastructure projects don’t always go according to plan.”
“You have to work at it and stay with it,” he said. “Often, if it’s worth doing, it’s difficult.”
But, Nyquist added, residents of Linn County will reap rewards for decades if the Oregon Transportation Commission approves $25 million to develop an intermodal transload facility at the former International Paper mill site in Millersburg.
The concept was fomented in the summer of 2017 and the OTC is expected to make a final decision on June 20.
“We are optimistic that the OTC’s decision will be favorable to the Millersburg project,” Nyquist said. “We’re looking forward to the next meeting.”
Linn County has committed $750,000 in Oregon Lottery economic development money to the project so far. $400,000 of that was for earnest money to purchase the property from International Paper for $10 million. Another $300,000 has been spent in the form of $50,000 per month since January as a continuing option on the property since the Oregon Department of Transportation has delayed making a final decision for several months. Another $50,000 has gone toward operational expenses.
Nyquist believes the Linn Economic Development Group has gathered the information the OTC requested concerning a commitment by the Union Pacific Railroad, as well as potential intermodal users.
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“At the end of the day, we think a reloading facility and accompanying industrial park will create hundreds of jobs in Linn County,” he said. “They will give manufacturers the opportunity to ship goods cost effectively and we also think it will generate revenue for local economic development over time.”
Nyquist said the real attraction is that the facility should reduce the number of empty shipping containers that have to be transported on area highways and the interstate.
“Companies are having to pay to move empty containers to other areas, or locally,” he said. “This intermodal facility will provide huge efficiencies in this area.”
Nyquist added, “Has this project taken a lot of time and effort? Sure it has. But in the end, it’s worth pursuing with all our vigor.”
Nyquist also had praise for consultant Greg Smith, whose work with a variety of projects in eastern Oregon has raised questions. (See the related story beginning on page A1.)
“I believe Greg Smith was the most talented guy available who could help us get this project approved,” Nyquist said. “Simply put, without Greg, we wouldn’t have this project to this point. His work for us and with other parties aren’t part of his work as a state representative.
"His work for us has been as a private citizen and not in his role at the state Legislature."