GROW MALHEUR

VALE, Ore. - The Malheur/Harney County Juntura Cutoff Road Project has received approval for $2 million of funding in response to their proposed Oregon Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) application.

Malheur County, in partnership with Harney County, Business Oregon, ODOT, Regional Solutions, BLM, and EP Minerials compiled and submitted an Oregon FLAP application as part of a funding package to replace the deteriorating Juntura Cutoff Road. The total funding package to replace the seven-mile long road is anticipated to total between $6 million and $6.5 million. The $2 million allocation will be combined with dollars from Malheur County, Harney County, EP Minerals, and state partners to cover the total project cost. Over the years, the road deterioration has VALE, Ore. - The Malheur/Harney County Juntura Cutoff Road Project has received approval for $2 million of funding in response to their proposed Oregon Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) application. Malheur County, in partnership with Harney County, Business Oregon, ODOT, Regional Solutions, BLM, and EP Minerals compiled and submitted an Oregon FLAP application as part of a funding package to replace the deteriorating Juntura Cutoff Road. The total funding package to replace the seven-mile long road is anticipated to total between $6 million and $6.5 million. The $2 million allocation will be combined with dollars from Malheur County, Harney County, EP Minerals, and state partners to cover the total project cost. Over the years, the road deterioration has created safety concerns in addition to substantial cost increases from EP Minerals. "Replacing the Juntura Cutoff Road is imperative to Malheur County due to the significant economic impact it has to our region," said Malheur County Judge Dan Joyce. "It provides access to federal lands for recreation, first responders, ranchers, and business operations for EP Minerals, one of Malheur County's largest employers." "We have a great team of individuals working together to find a funding solution to this large project," said Don Hodge, Malheur County Commissioner. "Without this collaboration from the State of Oregon, EP Minerals, and others, we would find it toughs to accomplish this task." "The replacement of the Juntura Cutoff Road is significant," said Larry Wilson, Malheur County Commission. "It will reduce operational expenses for EP Minerals and allow them to focus on long-term goals that include possible site expansion and job creation for the region." Malheur County Economic Development, Business Oregon, Regional Solutions, ODOT, and EP Minerals will continue to take the lead in finalizing the total funding package. created safety concerns in addition to substantial cost increases from EP Minerals.

"Replacing the Juntura Cutoff Road is imperative to Malheur County due to the significant economic impact it has to our region," said Malheur County Jduge Dan Joyce. "It provides access to federal lands for recreation, first responders, ranchers, and business operations for EP Minerals, one of Malheur County's largest employers."

"We have a great tema of individuals working together to find a funding solution to this large project," said Don Hodge, Malheur County Commissioner. "Without this collaboration from the State of Oregon, EP Minerals, and others, we would find it tought to accomplish this task."

"The replacement of the Juntura Cutoff Road is signifciant," said Larry Wilson, Malheur County Commission. "It will reduce operational expenses for EP Minerals and allow them to focus on long-term goals that include possible site expansion and job creation for the region."

Malheur County Economic Development, Business Oregon, Regional Solutons, ODOT, and EP Mineraisl will continue to take the lead in finalizing the total funding package.

ONTARIO, Ore. - ONTARIO — The long-vacant Select Onion site has a new owner. Ohio-based Fry Foods finalized the purchase Jan. 1. The deal was two years in the making, David Fry, the company’s vice president, said in a phone interview today. Fry would not reveal how much his company paid for the property, but did say that once the plant is fully operational, it could mean as many as 350 new jobs.

The property, located north of Ontario along Stanton Boulevard, near Interstate 84, has been vacant except for storage since Select Onion filed for bankruptcy in 2012. When that happened, Fry Foods, which also operates a plant in Weiser, began looking at the facility, Fry said.

“We were hitting the limitation of our production capacity at the Weiser plant,” he said.

Fry Foods opened its Weiser plant, which employs around 250 people, in 2006. It was a natural location, Fry said; Malheur County is the source of most of the company’s onions. Fry Foods is in the appetizer industry, creating everything from onion rings to cheese sticks to jalapeño poppers.

With some products — like onion rings — it’s “more economical to make the product there versus shipping it to Ohio to make the product,” Fry said.

The Select Onion site was a good place to expand the company’s Western Treasure Valley operations. “Once the new building became available, we were actually having discussions with the new owner, who just bought it from Select Onion, about acquiring the building,” Fry said.

He said Kit Kamo with Snake River Economic Development Alliance “did a great job getting things done for us.” Kamo helped coordinate talks between the company and major players, including the local job service, utilities, community representatives and others, including Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, who could help make the purchase happen.

Another factor, Fry said, was county’s enterprise zone, which offers businesses exemptions from local property taxes on new investments such as plants and equipment. After Select Onion went out of business, Malheur County sought to expand its enterprise zone to include that property, in an attempt to make it more attractive to prospective buyers. Business Oregon approved the zone expansion last May.

There are still some hurdles to cross before the plant can begin operating. Fry said there are some issues with getting the facility up to code and the company still has permits to apply for. But he’s hopeful the plant will be up and running by midsummer.

The facility will open somewhat gradually; Fry said adding production lines would be an ongoing process. He declined to say how many production lines the facility would hold, for fear competitors might see that information.

The plant could be fully operational in a few years, he said. “We’re hoping when it hits full stride to employ 300 to 350 people,” Fry said. He said he was grateful to Kamo and SREDA for the work they put in to making the deal happen. The state of Oregon was also great to work with, Fry said, and the governor’s office helped as well. “Without the help of all the entities, we probably would not have been able to do the project,” he said.​

VALE — The Malheur County Court is expected to consider a resolution requesting designation of a rural renewable energy development zone at its next meeting.

The proposal is seen as an opportunity to improve the local economic base and business climate.

“We think this is going to be an additional tool we’ll be able to use to attract businesses to Malheur County,” said Greg Smith, executive director of the Malheur County Development Office.

A rural renewable energy development zone functions like an enterprise zone for project development related to wind power, geothermal, solar or other cases where a renewable energy resource is used to generate electricity or produce a biofuel, Smith said in information sent to taxing districts.

The designation request will be submitted to Business Oregon, the state’s economic development authority, for approval.

The proposed zone is countywide by statute and could affect future property tax collections in the various taxing districts, Smith said.

Malheur County has one zone in place, with a cap of $100 million for incentives. The county used $81 million of the $100 million when a geothermal plant, Neal Hot Springs, came into the area in 2012.

The Legislature has increased the zone cap to $250 million due to the high cost of some of the renewable energy projects, and Malheur County will be jumping on board with the cap increase.

Smith said increasing the tax incentive cap would help one company his office is currently working with, Helio Sage Energy, which plans to create six separate solar farms located near Ontario, Nyssa and Vale. The energy company plans to begin construction in 2016 or 2017, Smith said.

A rural renewable energy development zone exempts only new property that an eligible, job-creating business might install in the zone at some future time, he said. The exemption is temporary, usually lasting only three years, after which time the property is available for assessment. An extension to four or five years is possible in some cases with agreement of the local county governing body — in Malheur County’s case, the county court.

Any company that wants to take advantage of the rural energy development zone’s tax incentives must be creating jobs, and those jobs must go to Malheur County residents, Smith said. Companies are required to guarantee a certain wage every year for the duration of the exemption.

“This is an opportunity for us to assist business industry as they look to grow and expand in Malheur County,” Smith said. “We’re excited about the opportunities.”​