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Shovel-Ready?

Dallas seeks industrial land

DALLAS -- When manufacturing companies look into relocating to Dallas, many leave empty-handed, said Community Development Director Jerry Wyatt.

For most, there's just not enough industrial land.

Governor Ted Kulongoski heard similar stories from all over the state. Oregon has a business-unfriendly reputation for not having large plots of land ready for industry.

In his first executive order as governor, Kulongoski ordered state agencies to remove regulatory hurdles for businesses. With his next order, he created the Industrial Lands Taskforce to help the state lure and keep businesses.

Chris Warner chairs the Governor's Economic Revitalization Team or GERT. Working with the state Economic and Community Development Department, GERT will create a Web site listing Oregon's "shovel ready" industrial sites of around 20 acres or greater.

"Shovel ready" means parcels that meet all current regulations and can begin construction within 180 days, Warner said. He expects the Web site to have its first list for businesses to browse by mid-January 2004.

Technically, every city in Oregon should have an adequate supply of industrial land. Land-use planning laws require cities to reserve enough land to meet projected growth 20 years into the future.

In reality, it's not so simple. Industrial land might be broken into small parcels, Warner said, undesirable to larger businesses.

The land might include brownfields -- contaminated sites -- or wetlands, both of which might deter development.

Changing a parcel's zone, which could involve bringing land inside the city's urban growth boundary, can be a lengthy process.

Dallas needs 56 more acres of buildable industrial land, Wyatt said. City officials propose expanding the city's growth boundary 69 acres, in the works since 1998.

Dallas has only one "shovel-ready" industrial parcel that would qualify for the state inventory -- a 44-acre plot off Godsey Road. Owner Bob Praegitzer has expressed interest in selling the land for development, Wyatt said.

Dallas officials will submit that property for the state list while working to get more sites that qualify. Adding 56 buildable acres would create at least two more large-parcel industrial sites that could go on the state inventory, Wyatt said.

He hopes to repeat the success Dallas had filling the empty Caterpillar site. Dallas officials made that site "shovel-ready," taking care of city regulations, before offering it to Forest River. The recreational vehicle maker has since become a Dallas success story, adding jobs and money to the local economy.

City officials currently prepare a report on properties when the owner gets ready to build. The Governor's order urges cities to have everything ready -- including a site's access to water and sewer lines and flood plain and environmental information -- ahead of time.

"It's something we can process and put together in the same process as staff reports," Wyatt said. "Now, we'll just do it even if they're not developing."

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