Under the towers: Satsop Business Park tenants offer wide range of products

A pair of high profile new tenants — Overstock.com and a large scale marijuana growing operation — at the Satsop Business Park are bringing more than 200 new jobs to the local economy. It has also left some residents wondering, what’s up in the Park now?

The Port of Grays Harbor took over the management of the park in 2013. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing as managers navigated the challenges of marketing a fairly remote property with some very unique rental facilities, but the recent larger-scale additions — including an existing Port client — are expected to bring increased revenue and more attention to the Park in the coming years.

The Park

“On a day to day basis there are about 50 employees working up there,” said Alissa Shay, Satsop Business Park Manager. “On average, between the students taking classes from Grays Harbor College or the NW Laborers, or the guests of the (Abundant Life) church, there are about 300 people up here per month on a regular basis.” That number will rise dramatically when the Overstock and Fuller Hill marijuana facilities are at full force this spring, when “we will have about 270 employees up here daily.”

The recent addition of Pasha Automotive Services to the Park “will play a significant role in increasing revenues over the next two years while they utilize the park for auto storage,” added Shay. Pasha is using the additional space at the Park to store some of the thousands of Volkswagen vehicles recently recalled after the Environmental Protection Agency found the German auto maker had intentionally programmed engines to make it appear they complied with emission standards even when they didn’t.

Currently, the Port has about a half million square feet of available space at the Satsop Business Park, according to Shay. “About 80 percent of that is warehouse or manufacturing space, the remaining 20 percent is office space.”

There are challenges in marketing the Park. Its location is fairly remote, though only seven or so miles from restaurants and stores. Some potential renters, especially those who manufacture large-scale items, may balk at the lack of rail infrastructure. Then there’s the buildings themselves; not your typical business park fare.

“We have unique buildings that are legacy assets at the business park which can make it difficult to find users,” said Shay. She singled out the 300,000 square foot Turbine Building, the largest building in the county. “It was specifically built to be used for the nuclear power plant and has since been refurbished, but the layout and size make it difficult to attract a user.”

The Park has operated in the red since the Port took control of the property four years ago.

“During the four years the Park has been under Port ownership the bankruptcies of two of our largest tenants have resulted in financial challenges of decreased operating income an additional expenses in clearing up those issues and preparing those facilities for future use by viable tenants,” said Shay. “Our response was to decrease our expenses as much as possible while still keeping the business park functional.”

In November 2013, the Port of Grays Harbor Commission authorized the Port to spend $1.3 million to purchase the assets of NewWood manufacturing plant in the Satsop Business Park. NewWood — which turned wood waste and recycled plastic into composite wood — had been in receivership since the previous year, and the Port was hoping to attract a new tenant to the 290,000 square foot warehouse space and the millions in manufacturing equipment it housed.

In essence, it was a gamble. The Port felt it was very close to interesting a company to take over the location, which could have meant a substantial number of jobs. The alternative was to see the high-tech facility parted out and no jobs. In the end, they weren’t able to find an operator and are now selling the equipment.

“In our 2015 strategic development workshop, the Port Commission directed us to begin the asset recovery process on the equipment remaining in the former NewWood facility,” said Shay. “That effort is about 80 percent complete with equipment being sold and removed from that manufacturing facility. That will give us another large facility in which to recruit users.”

The Park’s operating expenses have been cut by 20 percent since 2013. There was a net operating loss in 2016 of $859,730. However, recent events put the Park in better position to become profitable. “In 2017 we are slated to have an 18 and a half percent increase in revenues from 2016,” said Shay. “We have also been able to reduce our operating loss by 35 percent.” The Park expects their 2017 net operating loss to drop to a little more than $561,000.

Current tenants

The tenants that currently operate at the Satsop Business Park are typically smaller-scale operations, less than 15 employees, some as few as one or two. While they may not have the economic impact of the larger new tenants, they certainly are a unique blend of companies, ranging from the very high tech to a father and son salsa maker.

Advanced Combat Technologies makes precision billet rifles. “Some are custom ordered, and I have a product line that I usually have in stock,” said Cody Miller, the man who builds, markets and sells the rifles out of a milling facility near the base of the westernmost cooling tower. These weapons are unique, solidly made and come in a variety of calibers and unique finishes. In fact, GH Coatings in Montesano does a lot of the cerakote work on Miller’s rifles.

Miller precision mills each upper and lower assembly out of a solid block of forged aluminum and uses the highest end barrels and other components to create a very accurate rifle, available in calibers ranging from standard .223 caliber to a real thumper, the .50 Beowulf. Miller is a one man show, producing anywhere from five to 10 rifles a month; sometimes more, sometimes less. Find Miller and his line of rifles online at a-c-ti.com or on Facebook.

The father-son team of Chayne and Kalan King use the commercial kitchen in the Technology Campus Building to produce a line of fresh salsas that, in just two years’ time, has made quite a splash across the region.

The company, Brady Homestead — named for the family’s home near Brady — will officially celebrate two years in business in May. But Chayne started making what’s now called HBBP Salsa years ago in North Dakota. Chayne was living in a house with a bunch of other people while he was trying to start up a wireless communications company and, at one point, made salsa for guests of his business associate.

“It was a big hit, and I was just asked repeatedly to continue to make it. I took tips and advice from people saying what they liked,” he said. “I saw how the flavors changed over about two years, and spent another year getting it ready to go to market.”

Chayne says a couple of things spurred his decision to go into the salsa business. One was an offer to buy his recipe from a “club where executive type oil people go. I politely declined without even asking how much they were willing to pay.”

When he returned to the area he was further encouraged by Josh Loveall, who now runs the popular All Wrapped Up bakery, restaurant and coffee shop in Montesano. “I made some for him and he said it was the best salsa he had ever had, and that I should sell it,” said Chayne. That prompted him to do the research and work it took to take the product to market. After a tasting in Montesano it was official: HBBP Salsa was in business.

The line’s popularity continues to grow. Chayne said he recently bought a merchandising cooler to feature his product in Wynooche Meats and Deli in Montesano and “it’s been worth every penny.” That location, one of the newest of a handful in the area where his product is sold, has become their number one sales location.

Chayne was familiar with the commercial kitchen at the park before moving to North Dakota and says, “It’s kind of funny years later I came back and found that it was available.” The father and son duo prepares, jars, labels and transports everything themselves. As the business continues to grow, he is in the process of reviewing potential new additions to his product line. For now, find out where you can find this salsa at the HBBP Facebook page.

And why HBBP? Not even the salsa’s creator can tell you that. While in North Dakota, “We didn’t want to just name it Chayne’s Salsa, so we are trying to give it a name, like nine of us in this house,” said Chayne. “So we came up with these initials in the research and development process and somehow just lost track of it.”

A few years ago a Massachusetts-based natural gas supply company, Xpress Natural Gas, was attracted to existing infrastructure in the park and now trucks compressed natural gas from the park to a growing client list that includes Port Townsend Paper Corp. in Jefferson County, which just recently made the switch from oil to compressed natural gas.

“We are a trucked natural gas company; that is, we provide compressed natural gas to locations that are underserved, like Aberdeen, or are not served at all, and establish a continuous gas flow for customers,” said Xpress Natural Gas Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Matt Smith. “We call it a virtual pipeline.”

That virtual pipeline is established by tapping into an existing high-capacity pipeline for supply.

“In Elma we tapped into the same Williams pipeline lateral that supplies the (Grays Harbor Energy) power plant and co-located our terminal with the existing infrastructure,” said Smith. “With a gas supply established, we compress the gas into trailers and deliver it like any fuel to customer sites, where we connect the trucks to equipment that discharges the gas at a normal pressure and constant flow — just like a pipeline.” The Williams pipeline is part of that company’s natural gas pipeline network, this one supplying Washington, Oregon and Idaho from a plant in southwest Wyoming.

Smith says Xpress employs about a dozen people currently in the state, all based in the Satsop Business Park location, “and we’re ramping up as our business grows.”

NWAA Labs is “an acoustic testing facility for materials,” said Ron Sauro, a former NASA scientist who runs the two-person operation, which includes the two largest reverberation chambers in the world. These chambers are used by a variety of clients to test how different materials used in construction and manufacturing respond to sound; how well they absorb it, or deflect it.

“We test windows and doors, suspended ceilings, carpeting, that kind of stuff, to verify how they work acoustically.” Their clients include chip board manufacturers, Armstrong carpets, “mostly manufacturers, architects and contractors.” The largest reverberation chamber is 26,000-plus cubic feet and can accurately measure to very low frequencies; the second is 23,500-plus cubic feet and is the source room for transmission loss measurements — basically the number of sound decibels that are stopped by a material type at a given frequency.