PORT ANGELES — Yacht-builder Westport LLC will finish moving its cabinet manufacturing operation from the Airport Industrial Park west of downtown Port Angeles to the former Walmart store off U.S. Highway 101 east of the city by Dec. 31, company and port officials said.
The company, which builds luxury vessels at its Port Angeles waterfront plant, has been moving for several months from the Port of Port Angeles’ 93,500-square-foot 10.10 Building.
The company’s destination is Walmart’s former 130,000-square-foot complex at 3430 E. Highway 101 east of Port Angeles at East Kolonels Way.
Westport will employ up to 200 workers at the new cabinet-making plant, according to a 2015 conditional use permit for remodeling the facility that was required because it’s in a commercial zone.
Westport LLC bought the Walmart building and 24 acres from Wal-Mart Inc. for $2.3 million in July 2015, according to the Clallam County Assessor’s Office.
The appraised, market value of the new site is $3.3 million — $1.3 million for the building and $2 million for the land, according to the county Assessor’s Office.
The value was $5.6 million in 1998.
Westport general manager Dave Hagiwara and company President Daryl Wakefield did not return calls for comment about the move Wednesday and Thursday.
Hagiwara has been communicating with port staff about the relocation.
“We are pretty much on schedule to vacate by the end of the year,” Hagiwara told port Airport and Real Estate Manager Dan Gase in an Oct. 19 email.
“We have already moved part of the shop with the next portion to be done in mid/late November.
“Final move should be in December. We will let you know if anything changes.”
Port Executive Director Karen Goschen said Thursday that a manufacturer is expected to decide by mid-2019 if the soon-to-be-vacant 10.10 Building should be home to one of its facilities.
Port Angeles is one of two potential finalists for the plant, Goschen said, declining to identify the potential tenant or the product or products it manufactures.
Goschen said the company is drawn to Port Angeles by the Composite Recycling Technology Center, a port tenant located at the port’s composite recycling campus, where the 10.10 Building also sits.
The CRTC is developing lightweight, durable products such as hockey sticks and industrial braces out of recycled carbon fiber materials, sparking the potential tenant’s interest.
“They started out with 13 locations in how many countries, and now they are down to Port Angeles and one in Asia,” Goschen said.
“We have a very unique situation.
“That’s what the Composite Recycling and Technology Center is doing. The technology they are doing with recycled carbon fiber, that is of interest.”
“If they come, they would be coming because of CRTC.”
The port has included $176,000 in the 2019 operating budget for broker fees if the tenant decides not to locate at what will soon be the former Westport building.
The yacht maker has been transforming the Walmart building for several months.
The company has been issued 12 building permits between 2016 and 2018 for $3.6 million in improvements, from a fire suppression system to a 12,000-gallon propane tank, according to county records.
Modifications include construction of a 46-foot-tall dust-collector system and a small storage building.
The largest permit was issued in 2016.
The work was valued at $2.4 million to build 20,000 square feet of office space for administration and designers and 100,000 square feet for an interior cabinet fabrication shop, according to the permit.
“We have been making great progress at the old Walmart building,” Hagiwara said in a July 12 email to Goschen.
“We will be making a move of equipment and some departments of the cabinet shop by the end of August.
“The balance of the staff [engineering] and some cabinet departments will move in late October/November.
“We are trying to coordinate our move while maintaining production for several of our yacht projects.”
Westport has leased the 10.10 Building from the port since 2003.
The company now pays $22,660 a month, or $272,200 a year.
The conditional-use permit for modifying the Walmart building into a wood cabinet manufacturing business was approved Feb. 2, 2015, by county Hearing Examiner Pro Tem Lauren Erickson.
The applicant was Walmart, which sold the building to Westport five months later.
The site, located in the Port Angeles unincorporated Urban Growth Area, includes a 450-vehicle parking lot.
Traffic will include 15 box-truck trips per week and six 18-wheeler trucks per week.
“Traffic should be less than when the building functioned as a large retail store,” according to Erickson’s findings of fact.
Walmart has since moved its retail store across Highway 101 — a matter of blocks away from the site soon to be occupied by Westport.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].