The Sullivans are running out of space to conduct business.
However, they appear to have found a solution right across North 19th Street with plans to build office and warehouse space to accommodate the expansions of Alyrica Networks, Active911 and possibly Nova Dynamics. Northernwood is the name of the company created to organize and provide workspace for the Sullivans other three companies.
Charles Sullivan and his father, Joe Sullivan, started looking in 2016 for property to build on.
“We looked around for some space that would fit our needs for Alyrica and separate for Active911 and there’s just not a lot out there,” Kevin Sullivan said.
The property across the highway from Alyrica was purchased despite a heavy presence of wetlands. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently accepting comments on the project and the Oregon Department of State Lands should be following soon with its own public comment period.
“We have to get permission from the Department of State Lands and the Army Corps of Engineers in order to build this road across the wetlands, that’s the primary thing,” Kevin Sullivan said. “There’s also some impact to some other areas, but the road is the primary thing. We just need to be able to get across it.”
Alyrica Networks, a wireless internet provider, and Active911, an emergency communications service, both have job vacancies that can’t be filled because of a lack of space. A first phase would feature office and lab space along with two warehouses. The second phase would add more office pods along with an administration building.
“We’re hoping to get done with that (process) in the next six months or so, which would let us start maybe finalizing plans and maybe building next spring,” Kevin Sullivan said with a degree of caution, as construction timelines can be iffy based on various hurdles that developers need to clear.
“We’ve been saying it’s a year out for the last three years,” he added.
The second phase would follow in about five years, Sullivan said.
“If you look at our growth projections, we would probably need it probably before that, but that’s when we feel we would be ready financially and everything to do that,” he said.
The entire property encompasses 9.32 acres with 6.60 acres being wetlands. The proposed project would use 4.48 acres with construction on the upland area of the property.
“It’ll be 40,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space,” Kevin Sullivan said. “Most of the manufacturing would actually be R&D (research and development), more like lab space, and then a couple of warehouses for inventory.”
Although Nova Dynamics was included in the permit application’s project narrative, it hasn’t been finalized that the R&D company would be at the new site. Nova Dynamics has received a lot of attention in recent months for its development of a delivery robot.
According to Northernwood’s permit application, the three companies need office space for 43 employees. Sullivan said Alyrica and Active911 combined have 11 positions currently open.
“Part of what’s really holding us back on hiring right here is we just don’t have anywhere to put anybody. We’re crammed in here like sardines," Sullivan said. "We really need to get more space so we can hire people.”
The cramped quarters have prompted Alyrica to construct a building in Halsey to create more room.
The project area is just outside the city limits but located in Philomath’s urban growth boundary. The property is currently zoned by Benton County as urban industrial. Residential neighborhoods are located to the south of the property with industrial sites to the west and east. The railroad tracks form the northwest boundary and the southwest side is an open hay field.
According to the permit application, the project conforms to the city’s design standards, including streets, sidewalks, parking areas, stormwater, sanitary sewers, water, fire protection, building setbacks and landscape areas.
Kevin Sullivan said it’s not clear if they would seek annexation into the city, an issue that will involve further discussion.
“I want to be part of Philomath, so being a part of the city is I think where we’d like to be,” he said, "but there are a lot of pros and cons.”
Plans are still tentative when it comes to other details, such as landscaping and the construction of a 1-kilometer pedestrian trail.
Whether or not the commercial development would be open to other tenants has not been determined.
A few Philomath residents through comments at City Council meetings have expressed opposition to recent housing development approvals. Although the recent Millpond Crossing project has raised mostly environmental contamination fears along with infrastructure concerns, comments have also created a sense that Philomath would be losing its small-town appeal.
Would a business development create some of those same feelings?
“We thought pretty long and hard about this,” Kevin Sullivan said. "We thought about building this elsewhere for exactly that reason. But I think this helps with the small-town feel. I think people working locally in Philomath and living in Philomath is what I want to see.
“I don’t want to see Philomath turn into a bedroom community where we have huge apartment complexes that house people that are commuting elsewhere,” he added. “I want people to be able to live and work here in Philomath and I think this is going to help with that.”
In fact, Sullivan said they reached out to some people who have been vocal about development in the city. He said that they indicated an interest in seeing more local jobs.
“Honestly, if people have any ideas on ways to bring jobs into Philomath or keep jobs in Philomath while keeping Philomath’s small-town feel, I’d really be interested to hear any ideas that anybody has,” Sullivan said.
But Sullivan believes the project will benefit the community through job creation and raising the standard of living.
“The jobs we’re offering are by and large decent jobs and we’re very family oriented,” Sullivan said. “They are typically 40-hour week types of jobs to keep people home and be there for the kids and that kind of thing. So I think that has a long-lasting good impact on the community … the kind of people that send their kids to school and are a part of the community. And that’s hard to have if you don’t have a base of good job availability.”