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$22.3 million federal grant to Port of Inola to lay groundwork for larger-scale manufacturing

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Photo of Sofidel plant in Inola (copy) (copy)

The Sofidel plant in Rogers County encompasses 1.8 million square feet. A Port of Inola Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plant is planned at the 2,400-acre industrial park at the Port of Inola.

Tulsa Ports’ largest grant in its 51-year history — $22.3 million from the federal government — will position the waterway-manufacturing complex to become a “mega-site” for future operations, the ports’ director said Thursday.

At its monthly meeting, the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority voted to accept the award that will be earmarked for Port of Inola Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plant. The authority also oversees a port in Catoosa.

The money is part of $38.2 million the Tulsa region received as one of 21 recipients of a Build Back Better Regional Challenge. Winners were announced this month by the Biden administration and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).

The local funds will be used by a Tulsa-based coalition of organizations from government, nonprofit, academia and private sectors to create the Tulsa Regional Advanced Mobility — or TRAM — Corridor.

Dennis Alvord, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of commerce for economic development and chief operating officer, was in Tulsa on Thursday to celebrate the region’s award.

Specifically, the Port of Inola project will receive $22.32 million toward its total estimated cost of $27.9 million, with Tulsa Ports paying the $5.58 million balance (20%).

“There were a lot of projects in the Tulsa metro area that were originally included in this,” Ports Director David Yarbrough said. “The goal was to demonstrate a regional approach to attracting jobs that fit not only with the investments you’ve heard about with Tulsa Innovation Labs and the drone projects but also a project like ours, which is very likely to provide 10,000 jobs.”

The Inola plant will be located in a 2,400-acre industrial park at the Port of Inola. In 2018, tissue maker Sofidel purchased 240 acres at the Inola River-Rail Site to build a $360 million facility that encompasses about 1.8 million square feet.

The following year, Public Service Company of Oklahoma entrusted Tulsa Ports with the future development of the Inola industrial site through a land transfer of about 2,000 acres.

Plans also are under way for the Inola Rail Project, which will encompass about 5.3 miles of new and upgraded railroad track and includes the building and development of a 3-mile rail spur connecting Sofidel to the freight mainline railway.

Having a wastewater treatment plan in Inola will allow the port to target manufacturing in the electric vehicle, EV battery and capacitor sectors, Yarbrough said.

“We have a mega-site capable property. We’ve never been able to compete for mega-sites with our own property,” he said. “There are others in our region that have.

“It (federal award) brings us to the table. What we found out last year in some of our competitions (for employers) was we weren’t making it past the first round because we did not have a solution for our industrial wastewater.”

The Inola plant is scheduled to begin construction within two years and be completed within three.

“You couldn’t ask for better timing,” said Port Authority board member and longtime port director Bob Portiss, speaking about the recently established Port of Inola. “… This is literally the largest grant that this port has ever received. I think this is absolutely wonderful.

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