Port OKs land deal for SEL

Maker of high-tech equipment will employ about 100 at new plant at port’s business and technology park

By Elaine Williams of the Tribune

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories is one step closer to opening its proposed manufacturing operations in Lewiston, after the Lewiston Port Commission unanimously approved a deal Tuesday for the company to purchase land.

SEL is buying 25.45 acres in the port’s Business and Technology Park near Village Centre Cinemas for $831,451. The sale price is about 75 cents per square foot, compared with the 95 cents per square foot the port invested in the land, said David Doeringsfeld, manager of the Port of Lewiston.

The port took a variety of factors into consideration during its negotiations with SEL, including how the company will create jobs, Doeringsfeld said. “We feel very fortunate to have SEL locate in the valley because any community in the country would have been thrilled to have them.”

The maker of high-tech equipment for electrical utilities and power intensive industries wants to employ about 100 in a 106,000-square-foot building that will be finished in about a year. The estimated cost of the project is between $10 million and $12 million. The site has room for SEL to about double its space in the future.

“It’s kind of a godsend to the community,” said Jerry Klemm, a port commissioner.

SEL’s plans for Lewiston are part of an expansion that includes a 70,000-square-foot building in Pullman, where about 150 positions will be added to a staff of about 1,500, and 68,500 square feet of added manufacturing space in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. SEL is growing the number of jobs in Mexico from about 400 to 500.

Doeringsfeld credited two former port commissioners, Peter Wilson, who is now deceased, and Dale Alldredge, with their vision in selecting the land, where the Business and Technology Park sits close to major thoroughfares and amenities such as shopping. “They were doing some windshield engineering.”

It doesn’t appear that what SEL is doing in Lewiston will trigger extension of the roads near the site, said Dan Marsh, Lewiston’s interim city manager.

Even though it looks as if Nez Perce Drive dead-ends near the movie theaters, connecting it with Gun Club Road to the east isn’t on the city’s to-do list, Marsh said.

The land Nez Perce Drive would have to cross to reach Gun Club Road is in private ownership, Marsh said. “It’s not in the city’s immediate plans for expansion. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t surface, but it would require city council approval. … The city doesn’t have any budget funds to pay for it at this time.”

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.