Washington State Department of Commerce Deputy Managing Director Valerie Smith hands out the Governor’s Smart Communities Award on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Washington State Department of Commerce Deputy Managing Director Valerie Smith hands out the Governor’s Smart Communities Award on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington, Marysville buried the hatchet in the ’90s; now it’s paying off

The two cities joined hands and developed the Cascade Industrial Center. This week Gov. Jay Inslee honored their 30-year effort.

MARYSVILLE — It’s the kind of heartwarming story of cooperation you might tell a pair of squabbling kids.

Except this is a tale of two cities that couldn’t get along: Marysville and Arlington.

Thirty or so years ago, the two municipalities were at each other’s throats like the Hatfields and McCoys.

Each city wanted to annex the same big chunk of land.

“We were actually involved in litigation,” said Gloria Hirashima, now Marysville’s chief administrative officer.

It got so nasty that then-Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel put on his playground monitor hat and told city leaders to work out their differences, she said.

The two cities hired an outside mediator.

Washington State Department of Commerce Deputy Managing Director Valerie Smith speaks before awarding Cascade Industrial Center with the Governor’s Smart Communities Award on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Washington State Department of Commerce Deputy Managing Director Valerie Smith speaks before awarding Cascade Industrial Center with the Governor’s Smart Communities Award on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Eventually, they found common ground. Both wanted to create more local jobs and help reduce the lengthy commutes that were the bane of north county residents.

From that contentious beginning, the Cascade Industrial Center was born. The 4,000-acre manufacturing and industrial hub in north Marysville and south Arlington overlaps the cities’ two industrial areas centered on Arlington Municipal Airport.

On Tuesday, officials from both Marysville and Arlington took a bow.

At a short ceremony inside Northside USA, an outdoor gear maker and one of the center’s first tenants, the two cities shared a statewide award.

Together, they are the recipients of the 2023 Governor’s Smart Communities Award.

The award highlights planning efforts over multiple decades, said Valerie Smith, deputy managing director of growth management services at the state Department of Commerce. Smith spoke on behalf of Gov. Jay Inslee.

Leaders from Marysville, Arlington, Snohomish County, Port of Everett and Puget Sound Regional Council spoke at Tuesday’s event, which drew about 40 people.

All agreed, cooperation was key.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks about the Cascade Industrial Center earning the Governor’s Smart Communities Award on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks about the Cascade Industrial Center earning the Governor’s Smart Communities Award on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“We are grateful for this recognition of the long path it took to open the Cascade Industrial Center,” Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said. “City leaders from both cities recognized the value of this area 30 years ago and really invested in it. And nobody’s worked harder or longer on this than Gloria Hirashima, our chief administrative officer.”

He added: “The center has grown up faster than we all thought it would.”

Now, some of Cascade’s tenants are state’s largest Amazon distribution center; a Tesla supply facility; Soli Organics, an indoor farming venture growing herbs and salad greens; Gravitics, a space module builder; andEviation, which has built and test-flown a fully electric commuter airplane, Nehring said.

The center’s business incentives includes a 10-year city and county property tax exemption and no city business and occupation tax.

“It is gratifying to receive this statewide recognition for our efforts,” former Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert told the group. “The cities worked together for years to plan and open the center.”

People gather for the awarding of the Governor’s Smart Communities Award on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

People gather for the awarding of the Governor’s Smart Communities Award on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The joint goal — to bring more good jobs close to home — is off and running, she said.

Today, nearly 9,000 people work at the Cascade Industrial Center. By 2040, it’s expected to support another 20,000 jobs.

In the 1990s, the two cities began a joint planning effort to launch what was then called the Arlington-Marysville Industrial Manufacturing Center.

Setting aside their differences, both cities discovered they needed each other. Marysville benefited from Arlington’s business and manufacturing savvy. Arm-in-arm with Marysville, Arlington enjoyed the enhanced political clout, officials said.

Local business and property owners were consulted. Public workshops, surveys and interviews kept them in the loop, city officials said.

Except for Arlington airport, most of the Cascade Industrial Center is owned by private landowners. It is the largest stretch of undeveloped industrial land in Western Washington, local officials say.

In 2008, the corridor was zoned for light industrial and commercial use. In 2019, the Puget Sound Regional Council designated it a Manufacturing/Industrial Center, meaning more federal money for transportation projects

A partnership with the Port of Everett followed. The agreement gave the industrial and manufacturing hub, by now renamed the Cascade Industrial Center, access to the port’s economic tools and job creation know-how.

“Without the strong support of local leaders and everyone’s willingness to work together for a common good, we would not be seeing such strong success there,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks about the Cascade Industrial Center earning the Governor’s Smart Communities Award on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks about the Cascade Industrial Center earning the Governor’s Smart Communities Award on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Thirty years ago and now, Marysville and parts of Arlington are bedroom communities, home to thousands of people who travel down I-5 and I-405 to get to their jobs, Nehring said.

Attracting family-wage jobs is a priority.

“When a new company opens, it gives residents an opportunity to work closer to home,” Nehring said. “It’s good for everyone.”

Creating the industrial center was a leap of faith for both communities, Hirashima said.

“There was a lot of second-guessing as to whether this was the right idea,” she said. “They had a goal of creating jobs. They stuck to it and stayed the course.”

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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