County looks at industrial possibilities in countryside 


Thurston County consultants Maul Foster & Alongi, Inc. (MFA) presented the Industrial Lands Study findings to the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) Wednesday, December 7. 

According to the agenda document, the Countywide Industrial Lands Study is a comprehensive review of all industrial lands within rural Thurston County and Urban Growth Areas (UGAs).  

The County has an unprecedented demand for industrially zoned lands in the rural areas.  

The study aims to determine whether an adequate supply of industrial lands exists to accommodate demand. The study covers economic trends, reviews existing supply, and addresses growth scenarios over the next 20 years. 

At the use and rezoning application review in 2021 that requested a change in land use and zoning from Rural Residential Resource 1/5 (RRR 1/5) to Rural Resource Industrial (RRI), several residents commented on the environmental, infrastructure, and land use impacts. 

In response to these concerns, the BoCC initiated an industrial lands assessment, which was included as docket item CPA-8, "Countywide Study of Industrial Lands," on the 2022- 2023 Comprehensive Plan Amendment Docket.  

I want to just reiterate why the study even gets done in the first place,” said Planning Manager Ashley Arai. “You may recall in 2021, we had a comprehensive plan map amendment rezone request—one that we are processing and then one being requested to be placed on the docket.” 

Arai added that the board received a recommendation from the Planning Commission encouraging them to obtain more data to support a review of active applications to make informed recommendations to the board. 

“So this was placed on the 2022-2023 docket, and it was funded. We are happythat you can learn what our consultants learned throughout this process,” said Arai. 

Consultant findings 

Hoffman presented the three primary components of the Industrial Lands Study.
Hoffman presented the three primary components of the Industrial Lands Study.

Matt Hoffman from MFA presented the study, which has three primary components – employment projections, built industrial space, and industrial land inventory. 

“We looked at existing building trends, the land supply, industrial land policy regulations and how employment growth scenarios that we prepared could influence land use through 2045,” said Hoffman. 

Employment projections 

Hoffman shared a table showing the Industrial Development Growth Trends between counties for the years 2010-2022, and highlighted Thurston’s high rate in the manufacturing area. 

“’Looking back, employment sector is growing in the county, as well as across the state. Industrial employment trends in the county, compared to Lewis and Pierce counties between that 10-year meeting and the county had the highest manufacturing jobs at 0.9%,” Hoffman reported. 

The county has a 5.5% growth rate for transportation and warehousing, and 2.8% for total industrial jobs. 

Based on the employment projections between 2022 and 2045, the study estimated the following growths: 

  1. Mid Manufacturing/Mid Transportation and Warehousing 
  1. Estimated job growth from 2022 - 2045: 3,829 
  1. Total Building Square Feet Estimate: 17.0 million 
  1. Total acres needed: 1,313 
  1. Low Manufacturing /High Transportation and Warehousing 
  1. Estimated job growth from 2022 - 2045: 5,336 
  1. Total Building Square Feet Estimate: 24.3 million 
  1. Total acres needed: 1,876 

Built industrial space 

vast majority of industrial land or industrial development has happened in unincorporated areas. There two observations here that I want to mention – the incorporated industrial development is happening along the I5 corridor near highway interchanges, and a lot of the planned developments that are being discussed, at least half of that is in either a UGA or incorporated area,” Hoffman pointed out. 

Hoffman said that this signals more development activity shifting towards the county's portfolio while continuing to see the outside of the city limits develop. 

Industrial land inventory 

“Countywide, there's approximately 2,156 acres of net developable land. That number is going to get further winowed down. Of that 2,159 acres…71% of it or 1,525 are in a city and 634 or 29% are in a UGA or unincorporated,” Hoffman said.  

The report also stated that from 2024 to 2045, between 973 acres and 1,537 acres will be needed to support the remaining anticipated employment growth. Also, out of 1,903 developable acres that are industrially zoned county-wide, there are 1,150 acres that are utility ready or need some level of investment. Only 156 acres are in a UGA.  

It is important for the overall industrial land inventory to be greater than the anticipated demand so that there is choice. 


4 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • AugieH

    Rural industrial growth = destruction of trees and animal habitats = more revenue for the county in taxes and building permits.

    Follow the money.

    Saturday, December 9, 2023 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    How about we do the reverse: convert everything along I5 to industrial and let people migrate into small, organic communities in the rural areas and productively use the land. Then the municipalities can still get all their precious tax revenue.

    Sunday, December 10, 2023 Report this

  • BstewartCNW

    No mention of the wildlife corridor that crosses I 5 in southern Thurston county. They are committed to wiping the last possible connection in their region for wildlife and adaptation to climate change, we have think for the future not re administer the past.

    Monday, December 11, 2023 Report this

  • Skywarrior

    Developing additional Industrial lands in rural areas is counterproductive from an infrastructure, transportation and environmental point of view. The growth management act was enacted to preserve rural areas and place industrial development within urban boundaries.

    As an example, I would ask, how's the 93rd ave Industrial Area working out? A two lane road serving industrial uses, unable to support turning truck traffic and overwhelming the I-5 intersection. A great example of poor County planning.

    Let's not depend on paid consultants to provide political cover for decisions driven totally by revenue projections. We deserve better. Respectfully, Tom Fender

    Monday, December 11, 2023 Report this