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Insitu breaks ground this spring in Bingen

Insitu Inc. announced last Friday that, not only is it staying put in the Columbia River Gorge, it plans to break ground this spring at Bingen Point on a 120,000-square-foot concrete tilt-up building that will house the company’s production and administrative departments.

The announcement — made by Jill Vacek, Insitu’s director of media relations, at the Port of Klickitat office — comes more than three years after Insitu stated its intention to stay in the Gorge by calling for ideas for a business campus that would encompass most of Insitu’s operations.

Klickitat County Port District No. 1 officials and Insitu representatives completed negotiations in late December and agreed on a 50-year ground lease that covers two lots and 8.06 acres of the Bingen Point Binding Site Plan, facing the Columbia River, and includes up to three 10-year extensions.

If all goes according to plan, as many as 180 Insitu employees could move into the 550-by-260-foot building as soon as mid-2014, according to Jennifer Taylor, Insitu’s facilities director.

“We really wanted to stay where we started,” Taylor said of the company’s decision to centralize operations and build its new facility at Bingen Point.

Vacek agreed with Taylor’s sentiment. “Insitu employees live here in the Gorge. Many of them have bought homes in local communities and are here to stay, and we’re just excited to be part of this community.”

Many of the 180 employees mentioned above will be relocated to Bingen from Stevenson facilities Insitu has been leasing from the Port of Skamania. When all is said and done, Insitu facilities at Bingen Point will house as many as 250 employees.

“I can’t tell you how thrilled we are that we will be breaking ground at Bingen Point this spring to build our new facility,” said Steve Morrow, Insitu’s president and chief executive officer. “We appreciate the community’s patience through the selection process and are especially grateful to the Klickitat County commissioners, the Port of Klickitat, and state and local government for putting it all together.”

Morrow added, “This facility will be our sole location for all of our production operations, allowing Insitu to be more efficient, competitive in the industry; and it puts us in a great place for future growth opportunities.”

Insitu is one of Klickitat County’s largest employers with 800 employees, and accounts for 29 percent of total county payroll, and 15 percent of the five-county Mid-Columbia region’s payroll, according to Wayne Vinyard, chairman of the port commission. He said Insitu’s economic impact on the county and the Gorge cannot be overstated.

“What a great success story,” Vinyard noted. “I’m just so proud of this company and how far it’s come in the last several years here.”

The Port of Klickitat and Insitu have a long-standing business relationship that goes back some 17 years. In 2003, the Port broke ground on a $1.2-million building at Bingen Point for Insitu that the company moved into in 2004. At that time, said Vinyard, Insitu had 43 employees.

“This is a home-grown company that was the Port’s first tenant at Bingen Point back in 1996, when this building we’re sitting in was constructed,” Vinyard noted. “We’ve been with them every step of the way as they’ve grown and needed more space for their operations, and we’re glad we were able to come to agreement to make this new building happen.”

Mildren Design Group, of Tigard, which specializes in concrete tilt-up design and manufacturing facilities, is the architect for the building project. The developer is real estate development and investment firm Trammel Crow Company of Portland. The financial institution behind the ground lease is Lexington Company. Estimated cost of the project was not disclosed.

The building — nearly two football fields long and almost one football field wide — will be designed and constructed to achieve a Gold or Silver LEED certification, LEED standing for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a standard for eco-friendly design, construction and operation. The U.S. Green Building Council developed the rating system in the late 1990s.

The Klickitat County Planning Department issued a final mitigated determination of non-significance for the project’s environmental impact on Dec. 10, 2012, per the State Environmental Policy Act and the county’s Environmental Ordinance.

While the new building is being constructed, employees in Insitu’s procurement department will be at work in a 10,800-square-foot Boeing surplus building that sits on a lot (leased from the Port) adjacent to the building where Insitu got its start in 1996.

Taylor said the temporary building will remain in service for at least the next two years. “It will be a holding place for us until the new building opens up,” she noted.

Port officials pointed out last week that Insitu’s building project is moving forward because of investments the Port began making in the late 2000s in Bingen Point infrastructure improvements, with the support of state funding agencies and the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners.

“The contractor started work in 2010 and it’s taken three years to return a result,” said Port Executive Director Marc Thornsbury. “But if we hadn’t started that work back in 2010, we wouldn’t have land available for Insitu to build on now.”

Noted Vinyard, “Infrastructure projects are invisible to people, but they are the foundation for our growth, and we see that today with the recent opening of the Custom Interface building, and now this project.”

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