Our Voice: Port, city's focus on agriculture paying dividends in Pasco

Visionaries are a special breed. They can see a bright future in something many others cannot yet fathom. Proving the matter can take time and patience.

A case in point is the Pasco Processing Center, a 20-year-old economic development effort off Highway 395 that got its first tenant when JR Simplot opened a frozen vegetable processing plant in 1995.

The 250-acre business park developed by Pasco and the Port of Pasco was slow to take off in the early years but has seen explosive growth in a decade, particularly with agricultural industries. The last large parcel sold earlier this month.

Kenyon Zero Storage of Grandview bought the 16.7-acre parcel for $726,000, with plans to build 357,000 square feet of cold storage space.

It will join neighbors like Americold, Twin City Foods, Easterday Farms, Simplot, Syngenta and Reser's Fine Foods, to name a few.

The port and city extended infrastructure in the forms of streets, rail, sewer and water to the park. The proximity to highway and rail and a wastewater treatment facility installed by the partnership are major draws for ag businesses.

"It has been a huge economic success for our community and our ag industry," said Randy Hayden, the port's executive director.

Selling the land, however, was just the tip of the economic iceberg.

Syngenta is a good case study. When the company bought land in 2009 to build a $42 million seed processing facility, the port estimated the compounded economic impact at $150 million worth of development, 500 year-round jobs and 500 seasonal jobs.

In fact, at least five of the park's tenants make the Top 20 list for ag industry employment in the region. The impact of these businesses is huge.

With only 10 acres left to sell, the port has created a major success story with the Pasco Processing Center.

But it's already looking forward to the next big thing -- working with other agencies on a new economic development vision for somewhere in Franklin County. It may or may not be a food processing project, port officials say.

Part of the revenue from the land sale will help buy a site for the yet-to-be-determined future economic development effort.

Agriculture plays a big part in the economic picture in Pasco and Franklin County. The port has been a big player in developing that industry, creating projects that welcome ag and its supporting businesses.

We're eager to see what the port will come up with for its next development.