By invite of the governor

Legend has it, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s devotion to the Seattle Seahawks indirectly brought about a $109 million wine bottle plant at the Port of Kalama.

Gregoire attended the 2006 Super Bowl to watch the team play the Pittsburgh Steelers with longtime friend and federal judge D. Michael Fisher, who tipped her off that a Pennsylvania family was looking to build wine bottle plant – likely in Oregon, a state that produces great wine.

The governor would have none of it.

“I said, ‘No, we make the best wine,’ so I gave them a buzz when I got home,” she told a captive audience of 200 at the Port of Kalama.

The rest is history.

Gregoire’s call started a process that led to Cameron Family Glass Packaging locating in the Kalama River Industrial Park rather than in Oregon or Nevada.

On June 28, Gregoire joined 24 members of the family and a slew of community leaders in breaking ground on the factory – the first of its kind in the nation in 30 years.

The plant will be 175,000 square feet on nearly 13 acres. The Camerons signed a 50-year lease on the land with an option for three additional terms of 10 years each, for a potential of 80 years.

Longview-based contractor JH Kelly started construction in May, and the plant should be producing bottles by the end of 2008 – an expected 120 million bottles a year.

Jim Cameron, president and CEO of Cameron Family Glass Packaging, said the company was drawn to the region due to its relatively low electricity prices.

“We’re so happy to be here, to be in your neighborhood,” Cameron said.

Once completed, the company estimates the factory will provide about 90 family-wage jobs.

“This is our unemployment going down,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt, who represents the 18th District and is based in Kalama.

The infrastructure of the state’s wine industry has taken off in the last two decades, Gregoire said.

Washington is the number two wine-producing state in the nation after California, growing from fewer than 20 wineries in the 1980s to 500 this year.

Wine grapes are harvested by more than 350 growers on 31,000 acres across the state.

And Washington is working to promote exports and manufacturing, Gregoire said.

Last year, there was a 40 percent increase in the state’s exports, up to $53 billion, and Washington has the second highest growth of manufacturing in the country, she said.

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