By M.L. Dehm HBJ Freelance Writer
ARLINGTON — It’s not quite a Phoenix rising from the ashes, but it’s great news for Arlington and surrounding communities.
The 33-acre former site of Meridian Yachts at 17925 59th Ave. NE across from Arlington Municipal Airport is gaining new life as the Arlington Advanced Manufacturing Business Park.
Many well-known local manufacturers have already moved into the facility that received approval for development from the City of Arlington in December 2011. Some of these tenants bring new jobs to a community that lost hundreds of workers when Meridian’s fortunes sank after the 2008 recession.
The revitalization of the site even caught the attention of Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., who toured the facility and spoke with tenants on Oct. 17. Larsen also met site owner Brent Nicholson, who told Larsen that the facility was already more than half full and negotiations are continuing to gain additional tenants. There has been great interest from the Snohomish County business community.
One of the first tenants to express interest in the park is one that helped to refurbish it. Ted Wheeler owns T&E International, a company that specializes in pre-engineered steel structures. While working on buildings at the business park, Wheeler quickly realized the site was a perfect fit for his own revitalization project.
Last December, Wheeler purchased equipment from HCI Steel Building Systems after its closure and, bringing over some of the same employees, he started the company up again.
The business park had the security he wanted, the buildings were the right size and Nicholson offered a purchase option.
Wheeler also liked the fact that it’s competitively priced for tenants.
“I got twice the amount of space for the same amount of dollar,” he said. “And Brent’s a fabulous guy to work with.”
For Ken Turner, owner of Pacific Tank and Energy, location was a pivotal factor. “I live up here,” he said. His company used to build its oil and fuel tank trailers in Tacoma, but Turner had been looking for a more convenient site somewhere between Olympia and Bellingham. It had to be somewhere just the right size with room to maneuver his trucks.
Room was also a deciding factor for Thain Boatworks, which moved from Everett to the new location in March.
“It’s a lot more space than we had at the Port of Everett,” said Thain’s managing director Stan Youngs. “We’re very happy with it.”
“This is heaven,” said Thain shop manager Robert Zweibel. The company builds 65-foot long, assembly-ready power catamaran passenger ferries for use on Lake Victoria in Africa. Thain needed enough shop room to build a full-size craft with enough outside space for the multiple shipping containers eacg catamaran kit fills.
“And it’s climate controlled,” said Thain technical lead Albert Van Rooyen. Consistent temperature is vital when working with wood, adhesives and epoxies.
Aerospace firm Aeronautical Testing Service didn’t have far to go when they moved to the business park. They were across the street at the airport.
“Our business was growing and we just needed more space to keep up with demand,” said ATS manufacturing engineer Owen Robertson.
Location was also a deciding factor for First Boats. It’s a company that spun off from 100-year-old Pocock Racing Shells in Everett. First Boats will concentrate on repairs in order to leave more space for manufacturing the shells that made them famous back at the home facility in Everett.
Pocock owner Bill Tytus also liked the business park because it came with something that can be hard to find for a manufacturing company — good neighbors.
“Everett has been wonderful for us,” Tytus said. “But in this day and age, there aren’t that many places where you can go and the neighbors aren’t going to complain.”
With the exception of a brewing company, all of the companies at Arlington Advanced Manufacturing Business Park are manufacturers. The tenants all know that manufacturing is loud and they expect to hear their neighbors. No one should complain about occasional booms and crashes or odors from coatings, paints and epoxies. It makes for a much more relaxed atmosphere.
Renovations to the business park are not yet complete and there are still a few buildings left to lease. But over all there is a buzz of activity at the Arlington site that hasn’t been there since Meridian closed its doors.
“It’s just a primo location,” Wheeler said.