Columbia County suffered an economic setback in 2005, when Jolly Green Giant’s asparagus canning facility, once the largest asparagus canning facility in the world, shut down after 71 years of operation and moved offshore. The plant had been Columbia County’s largest employer and taxpayer, providing 50 year round jobs, 1,000 seasonable jobs during the summer, and supporting 2,000 seasonal jobs at local asparagus farms.
Replacement for such a large employer is difficult for any community, but can be particularly challenging in rural areas. Fortunately, following approximately a decade of research and development of a new pulping technology, Columbia Pulp I, LLC (Columbia Pulp) will be building an approximately $183.9 million new industrial plant consisting of 290,000 square feet in total space, to convert low-cost waste agricultural wheat and alfalfa straw (mostly wheat) from regional farmers into pulp for papermaking at regional paper mills. As a byproduct, the plant will also produce lignin to be sold as for use in soil and dust abatement and industrial applications, such as an additive in animal feed.
Columbia Pulp will create approximately 87* new, well-paying, direct permanent jobs. According to MIT’s Living Wage calculator all of the new permanent jobs will pay above a living wage for a single adult in Columbia County, with 98% of the new positions paying a living wage for one adult and one child. In addition, during construction, there will be about 120 construction workers working on the site at the peak of temporary employment. The project will also produce about $14 million in new annual income for the region’s farmers and their associated contractors from the sale of wheat straw. It will also significantly reduce farmers’ cost of burning the straw.
Columbia Pulp received $133.6 senior bond financing from the Washington Economic Development Finance Authority. To fill the remaining capital gap, CEI Capital Management (CCML) utilized the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program to attract private capital to the project. CCML allocated $20 Million in NMTC capacity to finance the $39.4 million lignin portion of the project. Wells Fargo Community Investment Holdings, LLC provided the equity, while CP Leverage Lender, LLC provided the debt financing for the transaction, which closed in two tranches on September 2017 and February 2018.
* Unless otherwise noted, all jobs data contained herein is taken directly from the Transactional Level Reports submitted by CCML to the US Treasury’s CDFI Fund. All jobs data is reported by the project Borrower and is not independently verified by CCML.
CCML FINANCING: 20,000,000
FINANCING PROGRAM: Federal NMTC Program
TAX CREDIT INVESTOR(S): Wells Fargo Community Investment Holdings, LLC