Salem’s Mill Creek Property Lifts the Mid- Willamette Valley to Prime Time

BY STUART WATSON

When Garmin AT needed to consolidate operations for its 550 employees, it scanned its entire corporate map for possible sites.

BY STUART WATSON

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Home Depot occupied its new 465,000-square-foot Salem Rapid Deployment Center in early 2011.

When Garmin AT needed to consolidate operations for its 550 employees, it scanned its entire corporate map for possible sites.

“We were looking here and at other sites where Garmin has facilities,” recalls Steve VanArsdale, general manager of the Salem-based operation.

With the help of Strategic Economic Development Corp. (aka SEDCOR), the city of Salem and a strong network of economic development partners in the area, the two-year process for Garmin AT to build a 66,000-square-foot home finished on time, on target — and close to home.

“When we started the process, we worked extensively with SEDCOR,” VanArsdale says. “They played a key role in helping us decide to stay and expand here.

“Their knowledge and ability to work with city and state governments was really valuable. They got us in front of people early in the project so we didn’t experience delays.”

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FedEx Ground was the first tenant to open at the Mill Creek Corporate Center, adding 90 workers in October 2009.

That same network of public and private partners in Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley are eager to employ these skills in the service of finding the next major tenant for a large, shovel-ready property just east of Interstate 5 from the new Garmin AT facility.

Facility siting experts see the potential for a company in need of expansion or relocation to find a home in the 548-acre Mill Creek Corporate Center, a master-planned industrial site in Salem.

With 130 fully serviced acres — an additional 57 acres are on track to “shovel-ready” status — Mill Creek lies within two miles of Interstate 5 and Oregon 22. It’s the largest state-certified industrial site on Interstate 5 between Sacramento and Seattle. In short, it’s at the crossroads of commerce for Oregon’s major population centers.

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Garmin AT chose the Salem area to build a new 66,000-square-foot building to bring multiple functions onto the same campus.

Chad Freeman, president of SEDCOR, points to two significant existing Mill Creek tenants as models of what might happen next. Both selected the site for its logistics appeal.

FedEx got the trucks rolling in 2009 with a 50,000-square-foot facility. Two years later, Home Depot opened a 465,000-square-foot distribution center.

“One of our focuses is distribution, but it’s not our only focus,” Freeman says.

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Chad Freeman, president of the Strategic Economic Development Corporation, surveys some of the 548-acre Mill Creek Corporate Center, which features 130 acres that have been fully serviced and are ready to develop.

Marketing efforts also target advanced manufacturing and food processing.

“It’s very appealing for distribution because it’s close to I-5, near Portland, and between San Francisco and Seattle,” Freeman says.

“There’s also interest around the advanced manufacturing sector, as companies are looking to expand, and food processing makes up about 50% of the manufacturing that is already here in the region.”

Freeman says the city of Salem and state of Oregon have invested heavily to bring Mill Creek up to market conditions.

Interest is growing, says Curt Arthur, managing director for Sperry Van Ness Commercial Advisers in Salem. He says a company looking for immediate access to Interstate 5 could save more than 50% on its land lease costs at Mill Creek.

To illustrate, Arthur said comparable Portland metro properties — if they were available — would price at $6 to $7 a square foot. Mill Creek, he said, is running at less than $3.

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“It’s an incredibly strategic piece of property,” Arthur says (and he doesn’t even have the listing, not that he would mind having it). “It’s probably the best piece of serviced industrial land between Vancouver, B.C., and the Bay Area.

“If you’re the end user and you don’t need to be within 30 minutes of the Port of Portland, and you’re looking for I-5 distribution, then Salem might be the better option,” he says.

“There are a lot of reasons why large distribution hubs for Winco, Walmart and Home Depot have located between Woodburn down through Lebanon.”

Arthur says he’s “doing investigations” for three parties, one in distribution, the other two in food processing. Assets include more than land.

“One reason food processors are interested is that we have an abundant quantity of water,” Arthur says. “Mill Creek can supply more than 1 million gallons per day, and that can expand.”

SEDCOR’s Freeman notes also that Mill Creek tenants can tap a workforce of more than a million people within a 45-minute radius.

“One of the most important things we run into with companies is workforce,” Freeman says.

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Close links to the regional education community — with workforce training support from two community colleges and five four-year institutions — ensure potential employers that hires will arrive with the skills to deliver the goods.

SEDCOR even operates the Industrial Maintenance Operator/Mechanic Training (IMOM) program, which engages experienced workers to share their skills with people just starting out.

“We’ve got a strong relationship with Chemeketa Community College, for example,” Freeman says. “When Panasonic Eco Solutions Solar America opened in 2010, Chemeketa helped train more than 200 members of their staff.”

As if all that weren’t appealing enough, companies looking at Mill Creek can tap into a variety of financial incentives, from tax relief available through its enterprise zone status to financing and energy credit.

SEDCOR has created a web site — www​.millcreeksalem.com — that gives more information about the site, location and project.

That combination of resources and collaborative partners behind a prime, shovel-ready site should bring Mill Creek to the top of any site selector’s list.

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