Toledo Port Manager Bud Shoemake, fresh off a proposal to the City Council Wednesday evening for a gourmet seafood processor to lease more than half of Port Station One at the top of the hill, told his port commission Thursday that the project is a big catch for Toledo economic development.
Shoemake said the council narrowly approved sending orders to the town’s planning commission to hash out what specific activities could be allowed in commercial zones like that occupied by Port Station One. Although the name Fishpeople Seafood was not mentioned in the order, the requirements for the zone are likely to address what the company wants to do in the other half of the port’s headquarters building – namely process tuna into gourmet food packets which would be sold from Alaska to Central California – a market area already served by the company. The company says it’ll do upwards of $200,000 in improvements to their side of Port Station One and over $500,000 in equipment purchases for the inside. And that’s just for starters.
The council vote was 3 to 2, with two councilors absent and Mayor Ralph Grutzmacher and Councilor Jill Lyon voting no, stating that rushing an analysis on conditional uses in commercial zones is not a good idea. But Shoemake maintains there is enough time to do a good analysis and agree on operating conditions as long as the process is not dragged out.
Shoemake said that a major portion of the tuna catch off the Oregon Coast is landed in Newport. But because there are no gourmet tuna processing facilities in the Newport area, the catch is shipped up to Washington and other areas to be processed and prepared for final packaging. Shoemake says, Fishpeople Seafood would like to do that in Toledo and create well paying jobs in the process and if things go well, grow the operation even more and hire more workers.
Shoemake says Fishpeople Seafood will have their tuna bled and gutted in Newport and that no fish will be stored or even temporarily placed outside Port Station One.
Shoemake says Fishpeople Seafood uses the latest high technology to cut and prepare tuna for market in tightly controlled, high air quality environments. No air inside the facility escapes to the outside unless it’s filtered, and no air outside comes in without being filtered. He says the quality of their gourmet products require very tight environmental parameters during processing. And they only process fish that are harvested on a certified sustainable basis. Shoemake told the commission that sustainability is a key component in the company’s business philosophy that is well known world wide. To visit their website click here.
Shoemake said Fishpeople Seafood is anxious to set up their tuna processing and packaging operations at Port Station One and to be ready at the start of the tuna season later this summer. Shoemake said he is very confident that a quality company like Fishpeople Seafood will further boost Toledo’s economy, add jobs and add tax base for the city. He added that having the port offices just on the other side of the main will ensure a good working relationship with the company.
Shoemake told his commission that Toledo must aggressively pursue such opportunities because no one can predict the future of already existing job centers like Georgia Pacific which is affected by international finance and market conditions which are far beyond the control of Toledo. He said GP employees have made significant sacrifices in order to keep G-P paper products competitive with an increasingly aggressive Chinese paper products industry. Shoemake said the port owes it to the community to grow it’s Yaquina Boatworks operations and any other water-based activity to constantly maintain Toledo’s high quality of life and improve its economy.
Shoemake said he asked the city council to consider expediting the planning commission’s review of the conditions and restrictions in such a commercially zoned area, suggesting a special meeting in late April to examine the zoning and what would be reasonable conditions to put on any company operating in such a zone.
Shoemake said he hopes everything can fall into place by the time the tuna starts landing on the docks in Newport this summer.