Expansion of Industrial Lands

Improving our economy by expanding available buildable, properly zoned industrial land.

Malheur, a Frontier County, has the distinction of being the second largest county in Oregon and the poorest. In 2012 we recognized that Malheur was woefully short of industrial lands. Representative Cliff Bentz was contacted and a committee was formed to expand available buildable, properly zoned land for industrial growth. Public and private representatives serve on the committee.

We quickly realized that this process would be time consuming and expensive – but worth it. A theme emerged from committee members and residents of Malheur: “We are tired of being poor and want opportunities for our children and grandchildren.” We expanded our message and engaged County and City representatives in a dialogue about economic prosperity.

The City of Ontario provided $100,000.00 to hire experts in the field of industrial land expansion. There was extraordinary cooperation between the Cities of Nyssa, Vale, Ontario and Malheur County. The potential areas for expansion were studied and reports were produced to guide us in our efforts.

There were countless meetings, phone calls, and trips to Salem to educate and engage State Officials. In turn, State Officials traveled to Malheur County to see our land, witness our commitment and evaluate the economic opportunity we are offering to the State of Oregon. Malheur County’s population of 3.2 people per square mile is a stark contrast to Multnomah County’s 1074.9 people per square mile and highlights the vast difference in industrial land expansion possibilities. The rules for industrial land expansion in Western Oregon cannot be the same for Eastern Oregon.

Our committee tackled the farmland concern. Eastern Oregon has limited water but is rich in land. Western Oregon has lots of water but is scarce in land. Early water use was designed for gravity flow field irrigation. Advancements in technology now allows agriculture producers to move water to non-irrigated land with methods like drip irrigation systems and low head efficiency pumps and circles. It has opened a new world of opportunity to our farmers and future industrial use prospects.

Nyssa and Ontario are unique as they border Idaho where labor rates are cheaper and actual land use can be changed in as little as sixty days – compared to Oregon where it can take up to three years. Industry looking to move to Oregon will not wait three years when they can get approval in 60 days. Through a collective process, which took nearly three years, we gained zoning approval for approximately 500 acres into Oregon, 220 acres each in Nyssa and Vale. Along with this success we have 1,000 acres designated “Regionally Significant Industrial Areas,” by the Land Conservation Development Commission.

Our work is not complete. The next step is to plan and finance the infrastructure necessary to attract new business and industry to our county. We need your support.