Hood River outpaces the state

Hood River outpaces the state

By Abby Christopher

 

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The Hood River Waterfront Business Park: A new building for Hood Technology is being constructed and a headquarters for Turtle Island Foods is being developed. Both will open in 2012.

At a time when the economies of many Oregon cities and towns are fragile and shrinking, Hood River is enjoying slow and steady growth. Hood Technology and Turtle Island Foods, both small privately held businesses already established in the City of Hood River, have invested more than $14.4 million combined to develop light industrial plant and offices for their businesses in the Port of Hood River’s Waterfront Business Park.

In September, Hood Tech moved some of its employees into its new 40,000-square-foot digs at the waterfront. Construction at Turtle Island’s new 33,000-square-foot property will be completed by next summer, according to property developer Jeff Pickhardt of Key Development. Key Development and Naito Development have announced 2012-2013 plans for new construction and renovation in the port as well, including mixed-use office buildings and retail businesses.

While the state reported a 9.6% unemployment rate in August, Hood River County was at 7.2%. And according to state economic analyst Josh Lehner, over the past two years employment in Hood River has consistently been 1.6-2.9 percentage points ahead of the state overall.

Hood Tech is expected to add approximately 20 jobs to its staff, which can range from 75 to 150 depending on production needs, according to president and founder Andy von Flowtow.  Hood Tech makes sensors for drones used by the military. One of its key markets, unmanned aerial vehicle systems’ optical/infared sensors, is expected to grow from $813 million in 2011 to $1.7 billion in 2020, according to defense industry researchers The Teal Group.

Turtle Island will grow from 73 to about 100 employees by 2014. According to Seth Tibbott, founder and president of Turtle Island, the company is staffing the full spectrum from administration, accounting and production to management. Tibbott says that the company revenue is expected to grow 25% to $22 million for the fiscal year ending 2011, and to $27 million for 2012.

Neither Turtle Island (makers of Tofurky) nor Hood Tech is expected to pay taxes for at least the first three years in their new waterfront properties. Both have applied for tax waivers on plant and equipment via the Cascade Locks-Hood River Enterprise Zone. Hood Tech has applied for a five-year tax waiver on plant and equipment. If granted, the waiver would give the company three tax-free years and allow the company to pay reduced taxes in future years. As of early October, Hood Tech’s estimated investment in plant and equipment in its new waterfront building was $4.4 million, although the company is still doing some construction and may also add more equipment.

Turtle Island, which has invested roughly $10 million in plant and equipment, is in the process of applying for a three- to five-year tax waiver as well. As part of their individual enterprise zone agreements, Turtle Island and Hood Tech may make “in lieu of” payments to the city and Hood River County and to the Urban Renewal District.