MOSES LAKE — Like most of the Columbia Basin, these 2,300 acres started out as scrubland, covered almost entirely by sagebrush and dry grass.

But slowly, construction crews working for the Port of Moses Lake are carving a road through this wilderness just west of the Grant County International Airport, laying sewer and water pipe, and turning these acres into what port officials hope will eventually become a thriving industrial park.

“The work started at the beginning of June, and we’ve got three-quarters of the road bed at sub grade,” said Milton Miller, director of facilities for the Port of Moses Lake.

The north-south road will connect Road 10 Northeast and state Route 17 just west of the airfield. It’s part of a $6.5 million project — partly funded by grants and a low-interest loan — to give businesses that might be looking to call Moses Lake home access to those 2,300 acres.

“If you look at the east side, with Moses Lake Industries and SGL Automotive, it’s pretty much built out,” said Don Kersey, the port’s executive director. “There’s nowhere to expand.”

So the port looked west and set up a partnership with local landowners, who own a little more than half the land in the proposed industrial park, set up a local improvement district (LID) to pay for a road and utilities, and set to work.

“It’s a perfect example of a public-private partnership,” Miller said.

Workers are currently putting in the road, a major water line fed by a new well, domestic sewer connected to the city’s water treatment system and an industrial wastewater treatment system that will feed into a huge new 70 million gallon wastewater pond that will allow the port to treat up to 1 million gallons per day, Miller said.

The development was an even bigger deal last year, when the port and the Grant County Economic Development Council (EDC) were getting almost daily inquiries from manufacturers and even retailers interested in setting up shop in or around Moses Lake.

Now, of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic roiling the country, fewer businesses are interested in expanding right now.

“We have been marketing the area for a few months now to potential clients, but we’ve slowed down a bit,” said EDC head Brant Mayo.

Miller said that even with the slowdown, two companies — a solar power manufacturer and a battery technology company — have shown some interest in locating in the proposed industrial park.

“The interest is still there,” Kersey added.

Miller said the road should be connected to SR-17 sometime in July and the whole project, along with the utilities, should be completed by October.

“It shows the dedication of the community as a whole to invest in Moses Lake,” Miller said.