Improvements to infrastructure, the expansion of industries, and increased residential and building permits show promising growth for Washington.
That’s according to Community and Economic Development Director Sal Maniaci, who spoke Thursday morning at the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual business breakfast meeting.
During the event, Maniaci presented milestones in Washington during 2017 and early 2018.
“Last year was a great year for progress in Washington,” he said. “We’ve made strides in our infrastructure expansion, increased our residential and commercial building permits, and shown steady and promising economic growth.”
Maniaci noted that construction of the Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River reached the benchmark of 50 percent completion this month.
“We’ve been lucky enough to witness the tremendous amount of progress that’s been made on the Missouri River bridge,” he said.
He added the $63 million project still is on pace for a December 2018 completion date.
“The much needed improvement will not only provide a safe connection over the Missouri River for commuters, but for the first time will connect pedestrians and cyclists to Warren County and the Katy Trail through a protected bike and pedestrian path,” Maniaci commented.
Another example of transportation progress offered by Maniaci is the Highway 47 Corridor Committee that has begun its study on the improvements of Route 47 from Washington through to St. Clair to solve congestion and better connect the county.
“The study will provide data on daily usage and provide design alternatives for necessary improvements to make Highway 47 safer and more efficient,” he said.
Street expansions in Washington have progressed as well.
“With the help of our local developers, we’ve come closer to making street connections laid out in our master plan,” Maniaci said. “These connections will eventually provide not only efficient routes for citizens to get around town but also provide better emergency access to the surrounding residents.
“Through extensions of Rabbit Trail, Weber Heights Drive, Earth Crest and High Street we have made significant strides at completing the layout in our master plan,” he added.
Piggybacking off a comment made by the former community and economic development director, City Administrator Darren Lamb, Maniaci noted that the city continues to seek younger residents with B and B’s — Breweries and Bike Paths.
“I am happy to say that in 2017 we were able to secure a grant from East-West Gateway’s Transportation Alternatives Program to construct the Busch Creek Greenway,” he said. “This new bike and pedestrian path will connect users from the Busch Brewery, following Busch Creek, across town to a number of destinations, including Washington High School, Mercy South, Highway 47 toward the Katy Trail, two city parks, and connect back to the eastern trailhead of the river front trail.”
The project is slated to be completed mid-2019.
Maniaci also commented on improvements in Downtown Washington.
“This past February, the city council approved the creation of a new TIF District that will take blighted and vacant properties along Front and Market streets and invigorate the area with new mixed-use development,” he said.
The $12 million project includes 30 residential units and approximately 7,000 square feet of commercial space. The improvements include the burying of utility lines in the area, as well as replacing sidewalks, pavers and streetlights. Phase one is nearing completion as Phase two is scheduled to begin in the coming months.
Last year also had exciting industrial developments, Maniaci added.
“In the past year we have seen a number of local industries make the important decision of expanding and investing in Washington,” he said.
In 2017 the city worked with Frick’s Quality Meats and the Missouri Department of Economic Development to secure a $700,000 block grant to construct stormwater improvements in the Schulze Industrial Park to accommodate for their expansion. The project, already under construction, includes an 18,000-square-foot expansion in the first phase, a $4 million investment from Frick’s, and 40 new jobs within the first two years.
“We are proud of our partnership with Frick’s Quality Meats and our community,” Maniaci said.
LMI Aerospace completed and has now occupied a 32,000-square-foot addition to its existing 90,000-square-foot facility. The expansion included a $3 million addition with $12 million in new equipment. As a result, the annual aggregate payroll is anticipated to increase by $2.5 million in 2019.
The 353 Redevelopment Corporation and the city also sold two vacant lots in the Heidmann Industrial Park to local industries ready to expand.
Lot 12, an approximate 10-acre lot at the intersection of Vossbrink Drive and Enduro Drive, is under contract with The Magnet Group for construction of a new facility.
Earlier this year, he added, Melton Machine entered into a contract to purchase Lot 25 in the Heidmann Industrial Park. The 41-acre site on the south of Highway 100 and Vossbrink Drive will be home to a new facility that will allow Melton Machine to double the size of its existing operations in Washington.
“Melton has been a figure in Washington for 48 years and we are excited they have decided to take this next step with us,” Maniaci said. “We appreciate the partnership both of these companies have been willing to make with the community and look forward to both of their success as they continue to grow in Washington.”
According to Maniaci, a goal for the city’s economic development department has been to foster the growth of our existing industries and create an environment where they feel comfortable continuing to invest in Washington.
“We see that success in the announcements of land acquisitions and new facilities, but we also have seen growth in a number of our industries at their current sites,” he said.
Recent plans call for a 6,800-square-foot expansion at Sahm Welding and a 9,000-square-foot expansion at Ziglin Signs.
Maniaci added Elite Survival Systems, which was recognized this year by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in the nation, completed a 5,000-square-foot expansion.
“I would like to congratulate all of these companies and thank them for their choice to continue to invest in Washington,” he said.
Maniaci noted there has been a steady influx of commercial permits, including a $1.1 million Total Access Urgent Care at the intersection of Highway 100 and 47 and a $2.5 million Casey’s General Store along High Street at the entrance of a potential new commercial and retail center.
Last year also was a great year for residential construction, he added. As of Dec. 31 the city received applications for 43 single-family residential permits — the highest number of new homes built in Washington since 2005.
“All of this, along with the strides we’ve made in transportation infrastructure and industry expansion, we hope to seize this momentum and continue this growth into the following year,” Maniaci said.