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Deal in the works to market former Monson property

As a former longtime employee of the city of Sunnyside, Dave Fonfara is familiar with the former Monson feedlot property west of town along Yakima Valley Highway.

Now he wants to help market that property for the city by attracting business development for what is now called the West Sunnyside Business Park. The city purchased the 150-acre parcel from the Monson family in 2004 for $2.5 million.

In February of this year the Sunnyside City Council okayed a move to contract with Fonfara, who is now in the process of drafting the final agreement for council to review at its March 12 meeting.

"The proposal is to promote a proactive approach to the development of Westside business park," Fonfara said.

The marketing plan comes with a $33,430 price tag. The project cost will be shared equally between funds remaining in the inactive Sunnyside Economic Development Association's (SEDA) account, and the city of Sunnyside.

Fonfara said his agreement with the city will be for six months. He noted the SEDA funds included money from the city, local contributors and the Port of Sunnyside.

Fonfara's work will include assisting the city with some of the master planning aspects of the former Monson property. He says that entails developing a concept of how the city would like to utilize the property.

He says companies involved in logistics, distribution, agri-business, professional and medical trades could be targets to recruit to the business park.

Fonfara adds, though, that the intent of the agreement with Sunnyside is to go deeper, to research specific businesses.

"That way you're not spinning your wheels or taking a shotgun approach, really going for those businesses that make the most sense."

He says the work with the city would involve listening to council members, the community, as well as researching the possibilities of grant and partnership opportunities.

Under terms of the deal to be finalized with council, nearly $13,000 would be spent to pay a salary for Fonfara as a temporary economic development manager.

He said the other budget items in the $33,430 project include travel expenses ($6,000) to meet with potential businesses or individuals interested in locating on the property.

Fonfara said that might also include traveling to some trade shows as a way to reach out to potential suitors for the property, but only if there was a targeted company at the show.

Other expenses in the proposal would include $9,000 for marketing and promotion. Fonfara said that would include signage at the business park property and other outreach efforts, such as a website. He said printed promotional materials would also be included in that cost.

Fonfara also expressed interest in using research the city has already commissioned, such as a study from 2006 that targeted possible businesses for development here.

He says the best-case scenario for the six-month project would be to "...identify a business or a combination of businesses that would locate at the property and create job opportunities and a sustainable economy."

Fonfara says he is looking at the project as not just a contract...but a reflection on his years spent in Sunnyside.

"A part of my interest in this project is the fact that I lived and worked in Sunnyside for 20 years," he says.

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