Jessica Ward runs a stacker Aug. 29 at Hampton Mill in Darrington. The small city in the Cascades received a $2 million state grant for the Darrington Wood Innovation Center this week, which could bring more than 100 jobs to Darrington in the next five years, Mayor Dan Rankin said. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Jessica Ward runs a stacker Aug. 29 at Hampton Mill in Darrington. The small city in the Cascades received a $2 million state grant for the Darrington Wood Innovation Center this week, which could bring more than 100 jobs to Darrington in the next five years, Mayor Dan Rankin said. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Timber technology center could bring 100 jobs to Darrington

The Darrington Wood Innovation Center will house manufacturing companies and educational resources.

DARRINGTON — A small town in the Cascade foothills will soon be the site of a 100-acre campus for developing cutting-edge timber technology.

Darrington received a $2 million state grant for the Darrington Wood Innovation Center this week. It will house companies manufacturing or building mass timber, cross-laminated timber and modular housing and an educational component.

The project could bring more than 100 jobs to Darrington in the next five years, Mayor Dan Rankin said.

“We define ourselves by what we do, and Darrington has been involved in the timber and wood industry for close to a century,” Rankin said. “To be able to bring those opportunities and pathways to this community will stabilize and add resilience to our economy.”

Today, the largest employer in town is the Hampton Lumber Mill. Behind that is the school district and the Sauk-Suiattle tribe.

Rankin said he hopes the center will act as a ladder that offers locals an entry point into the lumber industry and a viable pathway to work their way up.

“Young people and our residents will be able to see a more stable life and a more stable future,” he said.

The center will take shape northwest of town. Darrington will maintain ownership of the land and provide utility, environmental and road infrastructure. Forterra NW, a Washington-based environmental nonprofit, then will help develop the site and manage the construction of buildings, which will be leased to manufacturing companies.

The center is in talks with two potential tenants.

One is a company that manufactures cross-laminated timber. The product is made by gluing together layers of lumber stacked in alternating perpendicular directions, according to Forterra’s website. It’s fire-resistant and seismically sound. The material utilizes wood that normally would not be used for lumber, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said.

Cross-laminated timber is new to the United States, but has been used in Europe for over 20 years. The product can reduce construction costs by up to 50 percent, according to the University of Washington.

Rankin compares the material to Legos. It’s modular, meaning the pieces fit together and can stack on top of one another.

Washington is the first state to allow buildings using cross-laminated timber to reach up to 18 stories, Rankin said.

The center’s other tenant is a manufacturer that will take the cross-laminated wood panels and turn them into “modulars” which are delivered to a construction site, where they are placed on a building.

Phase one of the center’s construction is set to begin in 2021, and will include the development of about 30 acres for the first two tenants, Rankin said. The property has another 30 acres available for future tenants and educational facilities. The remaining roughly 30 acres are dedicated to environmental conservation.

The center has been six years in the making, Rankin said

For years, it was a dream he worked toward with other county officials. The center started taking shape about two years ago when the manufacturing companies showed interest in being tenants and the project started securing grant funding.

The project has been “Snohomish County’s worst-kept secret,” Rankin said.

With a $2 million grant from the State of Washington Community Economic Revitalization Board secured, plans are finally out in the open.

Now, the city is in talks with Washington State University to develop the center’s educational component.

The project is a step toward Darrington’s goal to reinvigorate the local economy after the 2014 Oso mudslide, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said.

Seeing years of planning come together has been “indescribable,” Rankin said.

“This community deserves every bit of the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into creating true economic development right here at home.”

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

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