The abandoned lower Hanel Mill site has drawn the attention of a national company that assembles energy efficient windows made from recycled glass.
Cardinal Glass Industries, Inc., has submitted a letter of intent to build on 10 acres of the Odell property that is already zoned for that use and owned by the Hanel Development Company.
“Hood River County is our first choice for the siting of an insulating glass manufacturing facility,” said Roger O’Shaughnessy, president of the company.
Construction on a plant of about 100,000 square feet is expected to begin this summer and be ready for operation by the end of 2003. The firm will pay family wages plus benefits to between 50-75 workers initially — with more hires expected as production increases.
“I think they are going to prove to be a tremendous employer for the region,” said Dave Harlan, Hood River port director.
Although housing an industry that prides itself on environmental stewardship might seem like the answer to the county’s economic problems, Hood River County Economic Development Coordinator Bill Fashing said there are two key issues that need to be addressed before Cardinal’s plan can be approved. He said a land-use exception will be required to allow sewer expansion to the site and the property needs to be designated as a state Enterprise Zone, which would allow start-up tax incentives.
Fashing is currently working to resolve these challenges with Harlan and a project team of local field representatives from the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department, Department of Land Conservation and Development, and Department of Environmental Quality.
“The cooperative approach to the project has been vital in the effort to create quality manufacturing jobs for the region,” Fashing said.
In response to Cardinal’s announcement this week, County Commission Chair Rodger Schock said, “This is a tremendous opportunity for the area and the teamwork to nail down the final details needs to continue so the project can be solidified for the community.”
The glass company originally cast an eye on the Cascade Locks industrial park last fall. However, the sealing process for assembling the double and triple pane glass required a higher elevation to prevent breakage, and the search was expanded for other locations within the Gorge. The Hanel Mill property fit the bill at 680 feet above sea level and discussions began on how to make the plan for the operation a reality.
“Once we started talking about Hanel all of the pieces came together,” said Hood River Port Marketing Director Mike Doke.
Cardinal Glass was founded in 1962 as a single plant in Minneapolis, Minn., which remains its headquarters. During the past 40 years, the operations have grown to more than 4,000 employees located at 18 locations across the country.
Harlan and Fashing believe Cardinal’s interest in the local mill underscores the economic benefits to be gained by converting more than 144 abandoned similar sites across the state into other industrial uses. Both Hood River officials are lobbying Oregon legislators to streamline the regulatory process so these properties can be regenerated for a compatible use. They said the decline in timber has forced the closure of many mills since 1989, leaving deteriorating structures that could be renovated very cost effectively since most of the needed infrastructure is already in place.