Port of Moses Lake getting its moment in the sun

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MOSES LAKE — The Port of Moses Lake is trying hard to capitalize on its current status as a good place to do business.

“We’re trying to take advantage of our 15 minutes,” said Executive Director Jeffrey Bishop. “With SGL Automotive and Mitsubishi (in the Port of Moses Lake), we continue to get attention.”

That attention got a recent Port delegation to Japan — which included local Rep. Tom Dent and Sen. Judy Warnick — sit down meetings with the heads of major Japanese corporations like Hitachi and Panasonic, Bishop said.

It also got serious interest from a major but unnamed solar panel maker, which was looking at the feasibility of investing several billion dollars and bringing several thousand new jobs to Moses Lake.

Bishop announced at a rural jobs conference last week here that the Port tried but failed to secure that deal because the company nicknamed “Solar Eagle” — due to a confidentiality agreement, Bishop said he could not name the company — needed 400 megawatts of power and 10 million gallons of water per day, something Bishop said the port could not deliver in the one-year timelinne “Solar Eagle” demanded.

“It is true we’re experiencing across the board challenges with electrical service,” Bishop said. “The Port has a power consultant, and we talk to the public utility district, but we’ve still been able to provide power to customers.”

Bishop said the water issue was solely a matter of water rights, rather than supply issues, and that the port could have met “Solar Eagle’s” power and water demands, but not in 12 months.

The Port’s biggest infrastructure problem is that all of the buildings it has inherited from the Air Force are occupied. The Port has room to grow, but growth is expensive, and it’s difficult to compete with other entities that have assets like hangars that are already paid for.

It’s fairly easy for a small or medium-sized business to fund new investment, but when very large projects in rural areas are involved, Bishop said outside money is necessary to get things going and even sometimes keep them going.

“The state needs to do more to help rural communities,” Bishop said.

The Port will remain focused on growth, Bishop said, because that is its mission and the businesses’ interest is there.

“It’s very hard to tell companies no when they look at your community,” he said. “And every community I’ve ever worked in has preferred to have growth issues, rather than the opposite.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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