Charlie Brant

Charlie Brant

Sequim Bay proposed for composites complex; plan hinges on $50 million federal grant

SEQUIM — Port of Port Angeles, research and manufacturing representatives have proposed a composites manufacturing demonstration facility on about 20 acres south of the existing Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Sequim marine research operations on West Sequim Bay.

More space for composites manufacturing is proposed at the port’s industrial park at William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles’ so-called innovation partnership zone.

The proposal, which was presented Monday at a joint meeting of the Sequim City Council and Port of Port Angeles commissioners at John Wayne Marina, hinges primarily on a five-year $50 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, said Michael Fancher, senior program manager for the nonprofit National Center for Manufacturing Sciences.

“We bring companies together to share resources and conduct research,” Fancher told the Sequim City Council at a joint city-port meeting at the John Wayne Marina conference room, adding that the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences also brings companies and government together in public-private partnerships.

“Our charter is to bring manufacturing back to the United States.”

About 30 others representing local government and private interests also were in attendance at the Monday morning meeting.

The Department of Energy grant is expected to be approved soon, with the port’s grant application due the end of August.

The federal agency is to select several national sites for manufacturing demonstration facilities.

The private sector would be responsible for the facility once the grant expires.

The city proposes nearly $38 million in road, water, sewer and other infrastructure improvements for east Sequim to support both the demonstration facility and a John Wayne Enterprises resort and homes development near the marina.

Water and sewer lines, with West Sequim Bay Road improvements, would be extended to the lab at Sequim Bay, and improvements to the intersection of U.S. Highway 101 and Whitefeather Way — the southerly access to West Sequim Bay Road — are also in the city’s future plans.

The nonprofit organization is working with port and economic development executives — and now the city of Sequim staff — to create higher-wage jobs in Clallam County and to create an Olympic Composites Corridor that would encompass the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas.

The corridor would be established to make the state a leader in the development and manufacturing of composites for commercial and aviation components for companies such as Boeing and Bombardier.

The port has expanded its Port Angeles airport industrial park building facilities to help Angeles Composite Technologies Inc. grow next to William R. Fairchild International Airport.

The complex now has more than 75,000 square fee of manufacturing space.

Angeles Composite Technologies Inc., or ACTI, supplies advanced structural composite assemblies and components serving the global commercial and military aerospace markets.

“We think that companies would like to locate to this area,” Fancher said, citing the Peninsula’s quality of life.

“We are convinced that there are large players that are going to be interested in the outcome.”

Geoff Wood, Profile Composites chief executive officer whose company is Bremerton-based, said he might have located his operation to Port Angeles had he known of the port’s efforts.

He said the composites industry is seeing growth at a rate of 12 percent a year and expects to see that pace to accelerate as demand grows.

Jobs in the industry pay up to $6,500 a month, Wood said.

When it comes to the carbon composites industry, Wood said, “China is growing very, very fast, India is growing very, very fast and we can growth very, very fast.”

Colleen McAleer, port marketing and property manager who this year has traveled on the port’s behalf as far away as Paris to promote Clallam County in the composites industry, said the port’s interests are simple: “This is a way to improve our economy.”

She said she already has received Gov. Chris Gregoire’s attention as part of the state leader’s economic development strategy.

The region’s congressional delegation is also supportive of the proposal, McAleer said.

Several private firms, including ACTI and the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, said they also are interested in the port’s proposal.

Fancher said Peninsula College in Port Angeles and Olympic College in Bremerton would join as education partners with several workforce training certificated programs.

McAleer said next steps would include port meetings with partners in the proposal, including the city of Sequim, which has proposed nearly $38 million in infrastructure improvements to support annexation of the Sequim Marine Sciences Lab, also known as Battelle, and John Wayne Enterprises’ proposed resort and homes developments near John Wayne Marina.

The port has plans to expand partnerships with Boeing and Weyerhaeuser and finalizing a combined letter of support from the region’s congressional representatives, McAleer said.

The port also is going to identify funding sources, in-kind services, infrastructure and capital from private and government sources, and develop cost estimates for proposed facilities, she said.

An economic impact report for city, region and state entities was also in order, along with market research to validate the demand for services and a business plan.

Charlie Brant, marine research operations director, said the manufacturing demonstration facility was intended to be an integral part of a manufacturing ecosystem that the Department of Energy supports to create value for a host of industries.

Sequim City Councilman Bill Huizinga asked the port leaders what it would want from the city to achieve its goal.

“Whatever the city of Sequim can do to support this facility will help the port,” McAleer said.

“What we’re asking for is for you to provide as much as you can provide.”

Brant said the port agency will have to win its bid over others around the country by making it clear that it knows how to take a $50 million grant and show how it can extend it into a long-term private-sector project.

Port commissioners president John Calhoun called the proposal “one of the largest economic opportunities we have had.”

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2390 or at [email protected]

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