By Isaac Bonnell
Port of Bellingham commissioners have approved a 10-year lease for Index Industries at 300 Harris Ave., across from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.
Index Industries, which manufactures switches and sensors for industrial equipment, has been working with the port for more than a year to relocate its business from Stanwood, where it has been since 2000. Company President Steven “Andy” Anderson said they plan to employ 34 people in their first year of operation in Bellingham and will expand to 50 people within three years.
One key factor that Index Industries was looking for in a new headquarters was a LEED-certified building, company president Steven “Andy” Anderson told port commissioners during a Nov. 16 meeting.
As part of the lease agreement, the port is going to spend $2.5 million to renovate the 15,000-square-foot warehouse to meet a LEED Gold rating. If it passes certification, this will be the Port’s first LEED-rated building. The cost of building improvements will be repaid during the term of the lease.
“I’ve been intrigued by the possibility of returning to Bellingham since I graduated from Western in the late 70’s,” Anderson said in a press release. “Now as a small business owner in this green, 21st century, I feel excited to be relocating Index to the kind of community that will help foster our goal of integrating a triple-bottom line – measuring our impact on people, and the planet, as well as profit.”
The lease is different from other port leases because it does not meet the current financial guidelines of the port. Most port leases have an internal rate of return of 9 percent; this lease is expected to have a return rate of 5.6 percent. Port staff contended that this is still a decent rate of return given the current market and the project meets the port’s goal of creating jobs.
To pay for the $2.5 million renovation, the port commission voted to apply for a $500,000 loan through the Whatcom County Economic Development Investments (EDI) program. This low-interest loan is provided through a rebate on state sales tax and the program is administered by the county.
The renovation project is expected to be finished by Sept. 15, 2011 and Index Industries will move in after that.