Columbia Falls Looks to Create Development District to Boost Industrial Park

Officials say additional infrastructure will attract businesses to a 110-acre site north of town

By Justin Franz

The city of Columbia Falls is looking to spur development on the north side of town with the creation of a Targeted Economic Development District.

The creation of a special economic district for the Columbia Falls Industrial Park was considered during the Sept. 9 city planning and zoning board meeting. Following a recommendation from the planning board, the full city council will vote later this month on whether it should use tax increment financing to improve the industrial park.

The Columbia Falls Industrial Park is a 110-acre site located just north of BNSF Railway’s rail line through Columbia Falls. The land was purchased by BID Group Properties and annexed into the city earlier this year. Four businesses already use parts of the property, but City Manager Susan Nicosia said more would use the area if it were improved. She said the industrial park needs paved roads, a working sewage system and fire hydrants for it to flourish. But projects like that could be funded with the creation of an economic development district, Nicosia said.

“(The development district) is a tool that can be used to give matching grants or offer loans to businesses,” she said. “It provides us with a tool to be competitive with other communities when trying to attract new business.”

Area businesses are already looking at relocating or expanding into the Columbia Falls Industrial Park, including SmartLam, which is planning on building a 20-acre facility there. When the cross-laminated timber facility is complete it will be one of the largest in the world.

Anna Louise Stene is a member of the planning board and the executive director of the Columbia Falls Chamber of Commerce. She said improvements at the industrial park would help the overall economic situation in the community.

“This would be a big step forward and help Columbia Falls attract new business,” she said.