Economic study paints rosy picture of Carlsborg; $2 billion in services, goods over 4 years cited

By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News

CARLSBORG — A study sanctioned by Clallam County Economic Development Council and Carlsborg Business and Property Owners Association paints an economic picture of the unincorporated Carlsborg community that surprises some business owners there.

Don Butler, owner of High Energy
Metals with nine employees, and A-M Systems’ president Arthur Green, with 23 employees, are two of them.

The recently released 19-page profile concludes that Carlsborg’s 21-year-old urban growth area supports 1,050 jobs and in 2009 earned gross wages for those employees of about
$17 million.

Business sales from 2006 to 2010 generated nearly $2 billion in goods and services, the report states.

An opponent of a sewer system that would foster business growth says the report’s results appear “overblown.”

The Carlsborg urban growth area, or UGA, has 113 businesses, representing 4.7 percent of the total number of businesses in the unincorporated county.

The profile concludes that from 2002 to 2009, the employment growth rate in the UGA was 29 percent. Compared with that during the same period, the county’s total rate was 7 percent.

“Clearly, Carlsborg has become a major economic hub and is an important part of the economic fabric of the county as a whole,” Green said.

The business owners face a 3-year-old moratorium on development while the county addresses a ruling of the state Growth Management Hearings Board, which declared the UGA invalid — a decision the county is fighting in court.

Both Butler and Green said the moratorium is stifling their plans for expansion and additional hiring.

“The moratorium hurts jobs growth,” Butler said. “Now we’re ready to expand but we can’t.”

Both companies have additional property at the Carlsborg Industrial Park to expand.

The profile was made possible through a partnership with the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Economic Development Authority and a Western Washington University intern.

“It shows that the UGA is doing what it’s supposed to and that’s to create jobs,” Butler said.

The findings are expected to be used in grant applications to support a multimillion-dollar sewer system proposed to serve the Carlsborg UGA.

Linda Rotmark, EDC executive director, said the profile is good foundation for two things: It can be used for decisions on future funding and actions, and can also help support grant applications for gap funding.

“We just didn’t know, because it is a UGA, what was the actual economic presence and how many jobs did it represent,” Rotmark said.

Butler said if the UGA was dissolved, the state growth board would downzone it to 1990 standards.

In 1990, the vast majority was unused, so would revert to lowest zoning, making all commercial properties nonconforming.

To prevent that, the state supports developing a sewer system for Carlsborg.

“If we need the sewer to keep the urban growth area here, then yes, we’re in favor of it,” Butler said.

County officials have said that a sewer system is needed to support Carlsborg’s UGA and to protect the area’s underground aquifer, which is threatened by pollution from development that is causing high nitrate levels.

Clallam County has already committed $4 million to the sewer project, which was approved for a $10 million state loan. The 0.5-percent-interest Public Works Trust Fund loan would be paid back over 30 years by residents and businesses that use the sewer.

County and Clallam County Public Utility District commissioners passed resolutions of intent to form a local utility district in March 2010.

The PUD received a nonbiding advisory petition in support of the project from a required 10 percent of property owners within the UGA in September 2010.

The petition, which was disputed by some opponents, kept the PUD involved in the project.

Bryan Frazier, director of the grass-roots Citizens for the Preservation of Carlsborg, which opposes a sewer system in Carlsborg, was nonplussed by the report, calling its findings “overblown.”

“If the industrial park went away, it wouldn’t hurt us,” Frazier said. “The county is just after revenue.”

He said it was not worth building a massive sewer system at the behest of a limited number of business owners.

Opponents such as Frazier have expressed concerns over sewer hookup fees, monthly charges, liens and the expense of disabling their $20,000 to $25,000 functioning septic systems.

“Many are living in poverty, on limited incomes, and this will drive them out,” Frazier said.

________

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at jeff.chew@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 20. 2011 12:03AM
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