Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed off on legislation co-sponsored by Hood River’s bipartisan team at a special ceremony on Tuesday.
With the stroke of his pen, Kulongoski enacted a new law that will put old mill sites back to work. He applauded both Patti Smith, R-Corbett, and Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Mt. Hood, for their success at crafting House Bill 2691-B and rallying their peers for its unanimous passage earlier this year.
“It has been an honor to work across branches of government and party lines to develop a common sense solution that meets an immediate economic need in our state,” said Smith, the chief sponsor, in response to that praise.
Kulongoski also said, “this legislation offers new hope to many places in Oregon by turning abandoned property into economic opportunity.”
HB 2691-B allows cities and communities across the state to “fast track” the redevelopment of more than 150 abandoned or or diminished lumber plants. It streamlines the regulatory process to house other industrial uses on those properties.
“The Mill Bill is a critical piece of our economic development strategy. It is one of the most important bills this session to create family wage jobs in rural Oregon,” Metsger said.
Metsger and Smith were joined at the signing ceremony by Hood River County Planning Director Mike Benedict, who helped draft the language for the bill, Economic Development Coordinator Bill Fashing, County Chair Rodger Schock and County Commissioner Chuck Thomsen.
The Hood River officials concurred that the Mill Bill would cut the red tape to help Cardinal Glass Industries get settled on the lower Hanel Mill site. They said it could also attract other industries to the closed Upper Hanel Mill and Dee Mill sites.
“It’s the first time in recent history that we’ve seen a real significant land-use change that people did not quibble about because they realized the need for economic development,” Benedict said.
“This is a step forward in bringing new jobs to town, it will make the next step a whole lot easier,” Schock said.
Both Smith and Metsger were appointed to key job creation roles following last November’s re-election to their respective offices. Metsger’s role as chair of the Senate Economic Development and Transportation Committee and her position as chair of the House Trade and Economic Development Committee allowed a united effort in moving HB2691-B forward.