By Pat Caldwell
NYSSA – A site just outside Nyssa has been selected as the location for a major rail shipping center that is expected to transform the economy of Malheur County, a county official confirmed Monday.
Greg Smith, the county economic development director, said Monday that Malheur County Development Corp., a public corporation established by the Malheur County Court, picked property along Arcadia Boulevard and adjacent to Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Smith said negotiations are underway with owners of three parcels to buy land that would become the rail shipping center and a new industrial park.
County assessor records show the biggest parcel – 290 acres – is owned by Charles, James and Margaret Farmer of Nyssa. James Farmer, of Fort Boise Produce, was appointed to the development corporation board by Gov. Kate Brown and has recused himself from decisions on the acquisition.
A 79-acre lot south of the former Oregon Concrete Company plant is owned by Nyssa Industries, a company who president was once listed in state records as David Waldo, a local insurance executive, and the secretary was identified as Gene Stunz with Stunz Lumber of Nyssa.
An adjoining 36-acre lot is owned by Margo Bybee of Nyssa.
The project is expected to be a boon for area onion farmers and packers but also other agriculture producers who ship goods.
The Nyssa location emerged as the preferred site from among eight considered around Nyssa and around Ontario.
A key need was proximity to the Union Pacific tracks. Railroad officials earlier this year toured the prospective sites and assured county officials they could work.
The effort moved forward rapidly after the Oregon Legislature earlier this year approved $26 million to fund a major part of the cost.
The rail shipping center is seen by county and city officials as an economic game-changer and is expected to generate more than 125 jobs. At the rail shipping center, farm products are trucked in and loaded onto trains that can make a run to the East Coast in days. Each train holds several hundred truckloads of goods, lowering freight costs and speeding delivery.
A similar shipping center operates in Wallulah, Wash., where a two-mile circular track flows in and out of warehouses.
The Nyssa site is bounded by Columbia Avenue to the south, Gem Avenue to the north and Arcadia Avenue to the west. The northern parcel is farmland, separated by two other parcels by a defunct cement plant.
Nyssa City Manager Jim Maret said he is excited about the news.
“Its huge if we get it,” Maret said. “It is probably the biggest thing to hit Nyssa in 20 years. It will put a shot back into the arm of Nyssa and we’ve needed it for a long time,” said Maret.
Smith said the development corporation already has the money – $67,000 – to put down on the properties.
Once land deal is concluded, the development corporation must complete an appraisal along with an environmental study.
Meantime, the development corporation must prepare an application for planning money, due to the Oregon Transportation Commission by Dec. 15. That could provide an estimated $1.5 million for preliminary work on the shipping center.