New Farwest Steel facility nears completion

Lisa Nisenfeld

FarWest Steel office building
Roughly 500 construction jobs were created during the construction of Farwest Steel’s new facility at the Port of Vancouver. Postconstruction, Farwest estimates the new facility will bring 225 jobs to Clark County over the next two years. Photo: Buck Heidrick
One year after the Port of Vancouver USA announced the sale of 20 acres to Farwest Steel Corporation, the company’s new facility at that location will become operational a few weeks earlier than originally planned, according to management.

The $40 million project will consolidate some of Farwest Steel’s operations in the Portland metropolitan area at a single, 331,000-square-foot facility. As one of the leading distributors, processors and fabricators of specialty steel products in the Northwest, Farwest wanted to bring its services to customers more efficiently. The Port of Vancouver site will allow them to do just that, company officials said, and they are eager to begin operations soon.

“The building completion date was set for August 12 and we should have our occupancy here before the end of July,” said John Worstell, Farwest’s vice president of operations. “The building will be complete and we will have our full permit to move in before the original date. The project is fortunately on budget, which is also exciting.”

Worstell estimated the new facility will bring 225 jobs to Clark County over the next two years. 100 of those will be relocations from other Farwest sites, with an additional 125 new hires. Those jobs will pay, on average, about $40,000 a year with benefits. The Port of Vancouver stated in a press release that the total economic impact to the community will affect up to 900 jobs benefitting from the consolidation.

Worstell believes this positive economic impact is a reflection of the region.

“This facility is a recognition of our confidence in the Northwest,” he said. “We believe the Northwest will continue to grow and add infrastructure to steel and steel products. If we take care of our customers as we have for the last 56 years – and this facility will allow us to do that in a more efficient and timely manner – we will continue to participate in that growth.”

In addition to the jobs Farwest will create at the new facility, the project employed about 500 construction workers, according to Paul Delsman, senior project manager at Perlo Construction. Farwest decided to work with local contractors, such as Portland-based Perlo and Vancouver’s Group Mackenzie, for the project.

“We recognized early on that we needed professional experience bringing this project to completion,” Worstell explained. “This was a year-long project, so getting people who were close made it more practical from a project management sense.”

As Farwest begins installing production equipment and obtaining final permits, Worstell said the company’s new opportunities resulting from the project are just beginning.

“We had a very large customer of ours take a tour through the new site last Thursday,” Worstell recalled. “They have the opportunity to go through steel distribution facilities across the country. When they finished touring our site, they said they had never seen a facility this nice associated with a steel distributor anywhere. It’s a state-of-the-art facility and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Earlier this week, Farwest Steel’s new facility was named “Top Project 2012” during the Vancouver Business Journal’s annual Top Projects and Building Excellence Awards.