State invests $300K to help bring new $300-million silicon smelter, jobs to Pend Oreille County

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Department of Commerce News ReleaseDepartment of Commerce


Aug. 18, 2016

State invests $300K to help bring new $300-million silicon smelter, jobs to Pend Oreille County

Edmonton-based HiTest Sand Inc. proposes to invest $300 million in a new state-of-the-art silicon refining facility in Usk, creating an estimated 400 construction jobs and 170 permanent full-time jobs.

OLYMPIA, WA --- The Washington State Department of Commerce today announced that a new $300-million silicon smelting facility proposed for Usk, Pend Oreille county, by HiTest Sand Inc. has been designated a Project of Statewide Significance and will receive $300,000 in economic development assistance through the Pend Oreille Economic Development Council. Much of the silicon produced from sand at the smelter will be used by in-state solar cell manufacturers, computer chip makers and aluminum product manufacturers.

Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, HiTest estimates about 400 construction jobs and once operational, about 170 permanent, full-time jobs will be created. Paying an average salary well above the community’s prevailing wage, these high-skill jobs will deliver a significant boost to the tri-county region in the northeast corner of the state that’s been struggling with unemployment rates several points above the state’s 5.8 percent average.

The smelting process will use large quantities of wood chips from forest cullings, providing additional public benefit to Washingtonians in reduced wildfire risk and a lower carbon footprint for in-state manufacturers using this responsibly sourced, local silicon. The nearest similar sources are east of the Mississippi River or off-shore, primarily southeast Asia.

“As a leading innovator in their industry, HiTest shares our commitment to enabling the great promise of the clean energy economy,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “I look forward to watching the resurgence of hard-working Washington communities spurred by this exciting new development in our northeast region.”

“HiTest Sand Inc. is excited at the prospect of joining the community of northeastern Washington. The support of local business leaders, the Pend Oreille County Commission, Governor Inslee and especially Representatives Shelly Short and Joel Kretz, was key in our decision to focus our development efforts on the Usk site,” said Tom Vaughn, vice president, U.S. Operations, HiTest Sand Inc “We look forward to seeing our silicon product incorporated into similar environmentally focused industries both here in Washington as well as the rest of North America.”

Meeting the threshold for a Project of Statewide Significance provides for voluntary expedited permitting treatment by local governmental bodies. To qualify for the designation, a project must be a private industrial development with private capital investment in manufacturing or research and development, or development that will provide a net environmental benefit. Additional criteria include providing significant economic benefit to the local or state economy and alignment with the state’s comprehensive plan for economic development.

“This is one of the most significant projects in the state for years. It is gratifying to see it happen in a region facing economic challenges,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “The tri-county region and neighboring city of Spokane offer HiTest Sands an incredible foundation on which to build generations of success – sustainable forest resources, low-cost clean energy and a highly skilled manufacturing workforce. I’m proud of the way local officials, our fellow state agencies and our team at Commerce and Governor Inslee’s office worked together with the company as business partners.”

"From the time Representative Kretz and I first met Hi-Test Sand 8 months ago, our focus was to bring all decisionmakers to the table and to assist them with whatever challenges they had.  Everyone worked tirelessly to help bring this to fruition.  It's incredibly exciting and gratifying," said 7th District Representative Shelly Short. 

The $300,000 grant from the state Economic Development Strategic Reserve Fund will assist with engineering costs associated with developing the 80-acre industrial site in Usk. The project will take about nine months in design and permitting and two years to build.


 Contact: PennyThomas, Commerce Press Office, 206-256-6106