Despite lockdowns across the U.S. in March, less than two weeks after the Colusa City Council hosted its first community meeting about the proposed economic development project at the site, city officials have continued working behind the scenes with Economic Development Consultant, Kristy Levings, to move the proposal further.
The Colusa City Council hopes to convert the shuttered plant into a hub for manufacturing bio-polymers, bio-plastics, green chemistry, bio-composites, bio-fuels, and building materials from renewable bast fiber crops like jute, flax, kenaf, and hemp, as well as manufacturing products from currently-available materials like almond hulls and rice straw.
“When we talk about Pirelli, what we’re really talking about is activating new industry,” said Levings. “It’s not necessarily talking about the building or what goes in the building. It’s about (developing a) new industry as a whole.”
The Pirelli project is part of a three-prong effort to revitalize the local economy, officials said during the city’s weekly Community Connection webinar on May 20, hosted by Colusa Mayor Josh Hill.
City officials have dusted off a previously commissioned economic study, and hopes that with some modern tweaking, they can begin to implement steps to revitalize the downtown, develop the river area for tourism, and capture more industry for economic growth.
The city introduced the Pirelli project at a workshop in March, and the plan has garnered considerable support from the community.
“I feel that the city has really identified to focus in on Pirelli, downtown, and events correlating with tourism that could happen locally,” Hill said. “I think part of the lens we look through is ‘how can this affect our local economy in the biggest way to make the biggest splash?”
While the former cable plant has been closed for nearly 20 years, the city believes there is enough industrial strength in the property to invite multiple biomaterial industries to Colusa, who could best make use of readily available and future agricultural crops in the region.
And despite the coronavirus pandemic, Levings said the city has been able to stay on task with grant applications, and is already in negotiations with one potential tenant.
“We haven’t slowed down at all,” she said.
So far, there have been nine stakeholder meetings, and the city has held both physical and virtual building tours with partners.
The city is still also pursuing ownership of the building, and may have the feasibility study/business plan completed in the next few months, Levings said.
City Manager Jess Cain said he has had numerous conversations with state agencies, potential partners, and granting agencies about the potential industrial hub in Colusa.
“Everybody that we’ve talked to, when we tell them about what we want to accomplish and do here, seems to get really excited and very supportive of it,” Cain said. “That’s a good feeling. That’s saying we are pursuing the right thing. “
Hill agreed the progress on the project is encouraging.
Although the city hopes to secure grants that require no or in-kind matches, the city will likely have to make a decision in the future on grants that require cash matches.
The City Council will ultimately decide whether to use the city’s cannabis fund, now around $400,000, and officials believe that leveraging the money for additional funding would be a good use of the funds.