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Blueberry packing plant going up in Grandview

GRANDVIEW - The Port of Grandview is one step closer to receiving $2.4 million in SIED money after the Yakima County Supporting Investments in Economic Diversification Board approved its application last Thursday.

The money will be used to make improvements to land the Port is selling to Olsen Brothers Ranches in Prosser.

Colleen Byam, president of Port of Grandview Board of Commissioners, told the Daily Sun News Olsen Brothers Ranches contacted the Port in December of 2009 inquiring about purchasing 3.9 acres of Port property along Forsell Road in Grandview.

An offer of $160,000 was made, Byam said, and the board of commissioners agreed upon it.

She said the Port immediately applied for the SIED money once the purchase price was agreed upon.

The $2.4 million will be used to extend city sewer services to the property. Water is already available but Byam said to comply with city standards two fire hydrants must be installed.

Another city standard the Port must follow is to put curb and gutters along Forsell Road in front of the property. She said approximately 740 linear feet of curb and gutter will be installed. The Port must also repair any damages occurred to Forsell Road when the curbs and gutters are installed.

Keith Oliver, product manager at Olsen Brothers Ranches, said this is the sixth year Olsen Brothers Ranches have been producing blueberries. Currently there are 80 acres dedicated to blueberries, but there are already plans to expand that.

Oliver said in the past Olsen Brothers Ranches have had to ship their blueberries to Portland to be packed. This spurred the purchase of land in Grandview where a plant will be built.

"We're looking forward to having our packing local," he said. "It will also give us more control."

The blueberries will be sorted at the new facility, packed into clam shells and then shipped out.

Byam said Olsen Brothers Ranches have already begun construction on a 20,000 square foot facility and is anticipating a smaller, 14,000 square foot facility to be built in the future.

Oliver said the new facilities will be ready for the 2010 blueberry harvest, which will begin in late June. Approximately 35 seasonal employees will be hired to staff the food packing facility.

Olsen Brothers Ranches are also planning new varieties of early and late harvest blueberries to spread the harvest season.

Byam said the new facility will generate approximately $27,000 in property taxes annually that will be shared by Yakima County, the city of Grandview and the Port.

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