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Port of Toledo inches closer to a deal with Fishpeople on new fish processing facility

Fishpeople on right Port offices on left

Fishpeople on right
Port offices on left

The Toledo Port Commission continues to think outside the box. Thursday evening it kept moving ahead to lease out more than half of Port Station One to Fishpeople, a gourmet fish company that has expressed a very strong interest in establishing a fish processing facility there. Although a final contract has yet to be signed between Fishpeople and the port, Port Manager Bud Shoemake seems confident they’ll have one very soon.

Shoemake predicts that when up-and-running by mid-July, Fishpeople will have installed hundreds of thousands of dollars of high tech fish processing equipment in an air tight and temperature controlled interior, on their side of the building.

Shoemake says Fishpeople is a very green company, which prides itself in maintaining a sustainable fishery for tuna and other seafood they process and prepare for its frozen gourmet dinners. Their prepackaged meals are sold in some 2,000 stores up and down the U.S. west coast including Fred Meyer, Safeway and Albertsons.

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Shoemake predicted that Fishpeople will hire up to 14 workers this summer, all of them family wage jobs. The company has to maintain that level or higher to remain qualified for a $250,000 state incentive, funneled through the port.

Shoemake says over ten million pounds of tuna are landed on Oregon docks every year – about half of that in Newport. When Fishpeople opens their new fish facility in Toledo, a large portion of that tuna will no longer head north to Washington State for processing, it’ll head for Toledo. But before it does, the tuna will be de-headed and pre-bled before it leaves Newport. Shoemake promised there will be no outside storage of fish or fish waste including any equipment that comes in contact with fish. Shoemake reiterated that the processing area is air tight with highly filtered air coming in and highly filtered air going out. The neighbors won’t hardly know is there. All truck deliveries will be at the back of the building. And with Fishpeople being just on the other side of the wall from the port offices, Shoemake said you can be sure everything will be run ship-shape.

Shoemake says Fishpeople is a fast growing company and will require expanding facilities. He said he hopes the port can accommodate them and keep them in Toledo, adding even more jobs to the town’s economic base.

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Shoemake says the Port Commission will meet next week in anticipation of signing the deal with Fishpeople. The moment the contract is signed, work will begin on a very fast schedule to renovate the south side of the building. Shoemake said even though it may not look like it at the moment, there will be enough parking. The Toledo Planning Commission gave the project the green light earlier this month. And because no citizen or interest group appealed the decision, it’s a go.

On another economic front, Port Manager Bud Shoemake says he feels confident that Toledo will also soon be embarking on yet another major jobs-creating journey by expanding the port’s boat yard at Sturgeon Bend. Shoemake said preliminary meetings between regional governmental officials appears to be producing some very good news for the port’s request for over four million dollars to buy a large boat lift – one that can haul out commercial fishing boats weighing up to 550 tons. He says that covers about 98% of the north Pacific fishing fleet – a band of boats that need constant maintenance and renovating.

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Shoemake says the decision will likely come on June 11th or 12th as to whether the port gets the funds from the state to buy the lift. If it does, it will add 47 family wage jobs to the port’s workforce, both in-house and contract, as well as around 100 more around Toledo as well as downriver in connection with other boatyard operations. Shoemake said that creating a highly successful boat yard in Toledo has been his life-long dream – and now there’s a good chance that it will finally come true.

From the sound of things, it could very well become Christmas in June for Mr. Shoemake and the city of Toledo.

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