A good fit: Universal Forest Products proposal to relocate to Silverton OK’d

March 2013 Posted in Business, News
After being vacant for five years, the former site for Redmon and Champion Homes is slated for a new occupant this fall – Universal Forest Products.

After being vacant for five years, the former site for Redmon and Champion Homes is slated for a new occupant this fall – Universal Forest Products.

By Brenna Wiegand

The city of Silverton, the Silver Falls School District, Silverton’s fire district and library as well as Marion County service agencies will all benefit because Universal Forest Products is choosing to do business in Silverton.

Silverton City Planning Commission approved Universal Forest Products’ proposal Feb. 12.

The multi-billion-dollar corporation is one of the nation’s largest – and the country’s leading manufacturer and distributor of wood products. Its 70 facilities coast-to-coast cater to the retail building materials, industrial, manufactured housing, residential and commercial construction and concrete-forming markets.

Universal Forest Products will consolidate its McMinnville and Woodburn plants on a 19-acre parcel in Silverton Industrial Park – vacated about five years ago by Champion Homes.

The site encompasses a quarter of the park’s usable land, will employ 100 workers and projects a $5 million a year payroll. The company expects the facility to be up and running by fall of 2013.

Silverton Chamber of Commerce Director Stacy Palmer said much of the credit for bringing Univeral Forest Products to Silverton belongs to Nick Harville, Retention and Expansion Manager of the Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR), working with cities in Marion and Polk counties.

“Their (the city’s) property taxes will be substantially more than what they’ve been – especially with it empty the last five to six years,” Harville said.

He lives a few blocks from the site and said one of the plant managers grew up in Silverton.

“When we’re looking at businesses when they’re coming in we look for that and if it’s a good boost to our economy, which this one definitely is,” Harville said.

“I think the biggest thing is that there’s a company back in a building that’s been empty five or six years, and it’s a company that respects the community they do business in … I can say that with all confidence.”

The company’s plan calls for improving the facility’s parking area and closing the two (of four) driveways that feed toward the nearby neighborhood.

“We’re thrilled to have a business of their size and of their community spirit joining us here in Silverton,” Palmer said. “They communicated with the neighbors even ahead of their application.”

“They’ve worked with McLaren (Youth Correctional Facility) in Woodburn teaching woodworking skills to the boys there,” Harville said. “They’re a very down-to-earth company.”

Among the long list of UFP products destined for the likes of IKEA and Home Depot are components for furniture, fencing, decking, siding, plywood lumber packages and pellets for pellet stoves.

“They’ve got high tech machinery, such as computer-aided machines able to cut out a shape of wood with extreme accuracy,” Harville said.

The scrap wood and sawdust produced are sold to companies that process them for other uses such as wood shavings for horse stalls.

“Everything gets used,” Palmer said. “It’s about as green a manufacturing facility as you could get. They don’t paint; they don’t stain and they’ve got creative ways to meet the noise criteria.”

The tax revenue it will generate for local and county agencies hinges on the value assigned by the county assessor, based both on the land and the equipment brought in.

“They are adding two 12,000-foot metal frame storage sheds on the site,” Jason Gottgetreu, interim community development director for the city of Silverton, said.

As it happens, the lumber company will be situated very near the former site of Silver Falls Timber Company, which reigned as one of the largest sawmills in the Pacific Northwest from the 1920s to 50s, exporting lumber and driving the local economy. The neighborhood’s nickname “Mill Town” remains.

Mill Town Pub, across the street from the Universal site, operates where Bolester’s, the old company store once stood. With the planned parking lot improvements owner Sue Countryman is looking forward to a nice view from the restaurant.

“Mill Town Pub has struggled since Champion and Redman Homes went out,” Palmer said. “I know Sue is thrilled. That’s another local business we save on top of adding one.”

“We’re looking forward to Universal Forest Product filling that gap when they open and hope we appeal to the workers there,” said Countryman who’s owned the building for 16 years. “We’re located on a dead end street; many people tell us they didn’t know we were here. I’m looking forward to more traffic going by.”

The restaurant features a $5 menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For Palmer, in her 13th year as chamber director, it’s been a long time coming to have a business relocate in Silverton.

“We get lots of people coming into town and you spend a lot of time and energy going through the process with them and then they go away, many just using you for leverage against another community,” Palmer said. “It has been really exciting to have a successful outcome, especially knowing the impact it will have on our community.

“We’re not on I-5; we don’t have tons of open land waiting for people and we have a few little hiccups when it comes to the fact that we have an industrial park next to a neighborhood,” she said, “but when it comes to somebody that fits, we’ll bend over backwards to do anything we can to get them here.”

Universal Forest Products joins Diana Foods, Frey-Moss Structures and Voyager Components in the 88-acre Silverton Industrial Park on the northwest end of Silverton off Highway 214 and Hobart Road.

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