News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Big plans for new jobs at old NORPAC site

When the old NORPAC factory in Stayton closed in 2019, hundreds of employees throughout the region were laid off including many workers in the Santiam Canyon.

A new owner is redeveloping the property as the Santiam Industrial Center, with an eye for tenants in warehousing, distribution and light manufacturing.

While it is unlikely the center will host the same number of jobs as NORPAC, which laid off 485 workers when it closed, developers still anticipate dozens of new blue collar positions by 2025.

“Our goal here is to invest in the real estate, lease the real estate and create jobs for the community,” said Coby Holley, vice president of asset management for IRG.

Holley spoke Nov. 28 during a meeting of the Stayton Sublimity Chamber of Commerce to bring local business leaders up to speed on plans for the facility.

IRG (Industrial Realty Group) bought the property, at 930 W Washington St., on Jan. 20 for $5 million from PNW Vegco, the company that purchased NORPAC in 2019. 

NORPAC (North Pacific Canners & Packers) declared bankruptcy in 2019 amid struggles to keep up with changes in the food packaging industry. Holley said these changes remain a struggle for similar businesses and it is unlikely a new tenant for Santiam Industrial Center will be in the food packaging industry.

The purchase of the property included the 600,000-square-foot building and 50 acres of land, and Holley said IRG plans to sell around 20 unused acres to a local developer. The remaining 30 acres will be developed to include additional spaces for trailers and loading.

The building itself is being split into 10 units ranging in size from 11,000 square feet to 113,000 square feet. To prepare for tenants, IRG is performing light demolition to remove food-packing fixtures left over from NORPAC, followed by a second phase of renovation for the build-to-suit needs of tenants.

Holley said some simpler units may be ready to occupy in around six months, while most will not be ready for tenants until about a year. He said some tenants may be willing to move into the building in stages as construction continues because the property and location are well-suited to their needs.

Three tenants are already on hand including PNW Vegco, which will continue to maintain offices at the site, and the U.S. Forest Service, which formerly rented from PNW Vegco. IRG has since signed on Highline Warren LLC, an auto supply distributor, to occupy a third space.

Holley said additional businesses have expressed interest because of the competitive lease rates they offer, which he said are far less than in Portland or even Salem. He also said the former NORPAC employees still in the area are a draw because a new tenant has an existing labor force to pull from.

“We’re very encouraged by the feedback we’re getting,” said Holley of potential tenants.

NORPAC Site Plan
NORPAC Site Plan

One such prospective renter includes Snow Peak Brewing Co., the Stayton tavern where the Nov. 28 meeting was held, which could quadruple its beermaking capacity as an IRG tenant. Owner Matt Spenner recalled the more prosperous days when supply trucks regularly drove through Stayton, and said his ideal is to see a Snow Peak truck pulling onto the highway.

“That’s always been our thing,” said Spenner of his desire to see the area flourish. “The goal here is to give more people that opportunity.”

When asked about the potential success of redeveloping the Santiam Industrial Center, Holley said this is IRG’s business model and they have purchased and repurposed similar buildings across the country. He said, because they bought the NORPAC property with cash, they do not need to keep up with loan payments and said any additional tenants would just push them further into the black.

Holley said he hopes to hold future meetings with the community as the project continues, potentially at the building itself once Phase I is complete.

“We’re bringing some exciting changes to the property,” he said.

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