Port of Tacoma Commission OKs lease agreement for $1.8B methanol plant

The Port of Tacoma Commission Thursday authorized a lease agreement with Northwest Innovation Works to build a two-phase, $1.8 billion methanol manufacturing plant on 90 acres of the former Kaiser Aluminum site.

The project will create more than 200 permanent jobs in Pierce County, and up to 1,000 jobs at the peak of construction, according to a company spokesperson.

Northwest Innovation Works plans to begin permitting activities with the appropriate regulatory agencies. The lease agreement calls for a feasibility period, which will allow the company to conduct in-depth analysis of environmental, safety, and other permitting-related issues.

According to Northwest Innovation Works, the proposed plant will convert natural gas to methanol for shipment to Asia.

“Northwest Innovation Works is honored to partner with the Port of Tacoma on this development,” said Northwest Innovation Works Tacoma President Joe Smith. “Today marks the first step in a long partnership and we are grateful for their leadership and support. We look forward to working together with the Port of Tacoma and the community, and to returning the Kaiser site to productive use for the region’s economy.”

“We are pleased to work with Northwest Innovation Works as it explores building a facility that would support reduced air emissions in manufacturing while providing valuable jobs for our community,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President Clare Petrich. “This proposal supports the Port’s commitment to return industrial properties back to productive use, diversify our cargo mix, create jobs and improve global air quality.”

The former Kaiser Aluminum site has a long history in Tacoma. The federal government began aluminum production there during World War Two. It was later purchased by Kaiser Aluminum Corporation and employed as many as 350 workers. By 2002, however, the company was bankrupt. The Port of Tacoma purchased the property a year later for an initial cash payment of $12.1 million. At the time, the 740,000-square-foot site had 70 buildings and a 500-foot-tall smokestack. The Port of Tacoma has spent nearly $33 million to clear the site.

UPDATE: Thurs., May 1, 2014 @ 2:52 p.m. – The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber released the following statement:

Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber Supports New Port Business

TACOMA, Wash. – The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber welcomes Northwest Innovation Works to the Pacific Northwest and the community. Today the Port of Tacoma moved forward with a feasibility study on Northwest Innovation Works’ proposal to build a facility to convert natural gas to methanol by approving the request for authorization for the Port’s Chief Executive Officer to sign a term lease agreement with Northwest Innovation Works, Tacoma, LLC.

“Northwest Innovation Works’ more than 200 permanent jobs with family-wage compensation earned by workers producing increased wealth for our community will provide a long-term boost to our economy and overall economic well-being. We should see the benefits of this economic activity and increased jobs and wealth generation in all sectors of our community,” said Tom Pierson, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber President & CEO.

The Chamber thanks the Port of Tacoma for bringing this economic development to the citizens of Pierce County. The 1,000+ construction jobs that Northwest Innovation Works will bring to our workforce desired work opportunities and the satisfactions that come with productive labor.

In regards to the community, the Chamber values the commitment of Northwest Innovation Works for environmental stewardship and its focus on safety. The Chamber also believes this facility will be a nexus for industrial development and a contributor to the economic diversity of our region, lessening our susceptibility to adverse economic cycles.