Tethys CEO sheds light on bottling plant

Tethys Enterprises, Inc. CEO Steve Winter Mark Stayton / Skagit Valley Herald

ANACORTES — Steve Winter, chief executive officer of Tethys Enterprises, Inc., shed some light on plans to build a massive beverage bottling plant at an Anacortes Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday.

Winter explained why Tethys chose Anacortes to locate a 1-million square-foot beverage bottling plant, the largest of it’s kind in North America; how his plant would employ at least 540 people; and clarified some aspects of a 2010 contract with the city that would allow Tethys to buy 5 million gallons of water per day through 2050.

The presentation comes on the heels of several Anacortes City Council meetings where members of the public and City Council complained about a lack of information from the company regarding plans for the plant.

The council will decide Sept. 24 whether an application to change Anacortes’ urban growth boundary to encompass more industrial land and potentially find space for the facility can move forward with county planning.

The Tethys facility is slated for a 30-acre industrially zoned site located south of March Point, on the southwest intersection of Stevenson and Reservation Roads. Winter said Tethys hasn’t released much specific information on the site because the company is still in negotiations with landowners.

“People assume that there must be a conspiracy theory (concerning the site) because they haven’t heard a lot from us,” Winter said.”One of the reasons you haven’t heard a lot from us is because we don’t yet have a site.”

Winter said Anacortes was an attractive location, with its large supply of water, cheap electricity, proximity to rail lines and industrial land, “which is proving to be more of a problem than we thought,” he said.

Winter said his plan is to create a “center of gravity” for the beverage industry in Anacortes that would attract a bevy of suppliers and service businesses, similar to how the presence of Boeing established a ring of support industries to northwest Washington.

He said the facility would be contracted to produce multiple lines and brands of bottled beverages, from soda and water to tea. He said marketing, product development and manufacturing of bottles and labels would happen on-site, providing at least 540 jobs directly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average wage for beverage manufacturing workers is $40,250 annually. Winter said this number would be slightly higher in the Pacific Northwest.

Winter said the facility needs to be large and rail-connected to succeed in an industry where the status quo — single-brand production facilities using trucks to transport goods — are relatively inefficient. He said a large rail transfer station would be located on-site.

In a personal interview, Winter said a maximum of two trains would enter and leave the site per day.

The City of Anacortes has rights to 55 million gallons of water per day from the Skagit River and currently utilizes 21 million gallons of water per day. Winter said in the unlikely event of a drought, the city can cut water service to the plant to provide for citizen needs.

Anacortes City Councilman Brian Geer, who attended the meeting along with councilmembers Eric Johnson and Cynthia Richardson, said he’s supportive overall of the project because it would bring jobs to the region, but he would have liked the information Winter provided Thursday earlier.

“He could have talked to council members one-on-one, talked about his vision for the site, and we would have passed this last week,” Geer said.

In a personal interview, Winter said he plans to make similar presentations at Rotary clubs in the area, but made no mention of a strictly public information session.

Johnson said if Tethys doesn’t reach an agreement with landowners on the proposed project site by Dec. 1, Anacortes would drop the contract with Tethys unless the City Council approves an extension. Winter said an environmental feasibility study for the site, detailed site plans and a development permit application will be required by Dec. 1, 2014.

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