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Alcoa property cant be wasted

East Multnomah County's economic potential expanded again last week with the Port of Portland's decision to proceed with development of the Alcoa site in Troutdale.

Gone is the port's previous idea of locating an inter-modal rail yard on the 700-plus acre property. In its place is a commitment to use the land - the best industrial parcel now available in the metropolitan area - for a good mix of jobs.

Following discussions with Troutdale Mayor Paul Thalhofer and Oregon House Speaker Karen Minnis, the port agreed to drop the rail-yard concept in return for Troutdale's cooperation with other types of industrial development. Troutdale should jump at the chance to annex the Alcoa site and be enriched by the employment and property-tax revenues that will follow.

It would be hard to overstate the advantages of the Alcoa site for potential industrial development. It is large, under one ownership, close to the freeway, next to the railroad and relatively easy to service. What East County and Troutdale need are more major industries, which in turn help smaller businesses. The port has the ability to choose the type of industries it wants on the property, and it should do so wisely.

Port Executive Director Bill Wyatt has indicated that potential industries could include manufacturers and some distribution and warehousing. Our preference would be light or heavy industrial uses - because of the high wages and low impact on the community. However, the Alcoa site is uniquely suited for distribution and warehousing, and it would be difficult to avoid that element altogether.

Most important is a commitment to a relatively high job density on the site. Probably half the site - about 350 acres - is capable of being developed, so a reasonable target would be 3,500 to 4,000 jobs.

The effects of these jobs are multiplied throughout the economy to a much greater degree than tourism- or service-sector employment. The high value of industrial buildings and equipment also will produce plentiful property-tax revenues for Troutdale as the land is developed

While Troutdale has the most to gain from the Alcoa development, all citizens and businesses in East County will benefit from the port's commitment to be a long-term partner in the area's economic improvement.