Provided by the port managers of Newport, Toledo and Alsea Bay
By Kevin Greenwood, Port of Newport; Bud Shoemake, Port of Toledo; and Maggie Rivers, Port of Alsea
Oregon’s Legislature has a chance to create living-wage work in many of our jobs-starved rural communities.
The opening comes via President Barack Obama’s recent signing of the Water Resources Development Act. The new law capitalizes on inspired congressional leadership by Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
The federal offer is easily described: Up to 10 percent of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund’s almost $1.8 billion a year could be set aside for gravely needed dredging of federally authorized channels at small and subsistence ports. That potentially translates to millions of dollars to Oregon’s coastal communities. The current dredging taking place in Yaquina Bay is funded in part through the release of the Trust’s small port set-aside.
However, well-dredged federal channels don’t guarantee that ports are equipped to be competitive. In order to be competitive ports must have well-functioning roads, heavy equipment, sewers, storm water, wharfs, docks, piers, and electrical facilities – that generally fall to the ports themselves.
There are plenty of reasons why targeted contributions from the Legislature and ports make political, social, and business sense. One in six jobs in Oregon are directly or indirectly tied to cargo, recreation, industrial, commercial or other activity at our ports. This makes Oregon one of our nation’s most trade-dependent states, according to the Brookings Institute. Additionally, jobs related to exports pay 20-40 percent more than average pay for similar jobs with domestic markets.
Oregon’s trade-related employment grew 7.5 times faster than total employment, and its exports grew 34 percent faster than state gross domestic product since 2002, according to a Business Roundtable report. Moreover, Lincoln County’s three ports contribute to all of these activities.
The dividends from investments in our ports are realized statewide — to schools, local government service providers and the state’s General Fund — judging by data from a recent study commissioned by Business Oregon and the Oregon Public Ports Association. For example, Oregon’s 15 coastal ports — with 15,250 direct, indirect, and induced jobs, gross sales of $1.9 billion-plus and local/state tax revenue payments of $88 million — are adapting to new realities as their historic reliance on forest and fishing industries dwindles.
The 22 port-related enterprises in the Port of Newport area (including Depoe Bay) employ an estimated 2,063 workers. Newport’s focus is on commercial fishing, government/research, and food and beverage production. The direct labor impact is over $71-million annually.
The newly renovated International Terminal represents a significant investment by the Port and area taxpayers, which is actively pursuing potential users such as lumber/forest products, fishing related products and tourism. The Port is also studying opportunities to develop and encourage industrial uses of upland properties near the terminal. Potential uses include commercial fishing support, short sea shipping and marine science and research.
The Port of Newport controls a significant real estate portfolio including raw sites and improved properties. These are largely concentrated along the bay frontage, and include some of the area’s key improvements such as the Hatfield Marine Science Center, the NOAA MOC-P facility, and the Rogue Brewery properties. Areas of market opportunity for the commercial andindustrial portfolio include the acquisition of additional real estate, storage buildings for the commercial and sportfishing fleet, additional parking, and new office space for the Port. The Port’s control of much of the waterfront property along the bay makes it a major player in the local tourism market.
The Port of Toledo provides space for eight businesses directly employing an estimated 93 workers. Toledo’s direct port-related employment focuses on vessel repair, food processing and restaurant/retail. The direct labor income impact is $2.5-million annually.
The Port of Toledo has focused its development efforts on the Yaquina Boatyard, and specifically to serve the commercial, charter and scientific/research boats most of which are homeported in Yaquina Bay. With key funding now in place, the Port will replace the 200-ton dry dock with a 440-ton mobile lift, constructing a new vessel wash down pad, relocating utilities and upgrading access roads.
In addition, the Port of Toledo is seeking to enhance the capability of transfering rail cargo directly to the boatyard in order to serve the burgeoning wave power industry. With the proposed enhancements, it will be possible to transfer supplies that arrive by rail from other parts of the country onto barges at the boatyard for shipment to offshore energy fields via Newport.
Even the Port of Alsea in Waldport supports a total of 69 direct jobs and labor income totaling $1.3-million based upon the four port-related establishments and the jobs they create around recreational uses of the Alsea River.
Each of Oregon’s ports play a central role in its community’s prosperity and livability. These benefits are widely shared. The ports’ land and transportation resources link farm and forest producers, food processors and machinery and electronics manufacturers to domestic and global markets.
Oregon thrives when its public ports thrive. Our fortunes wane when they struggle. So the federal investment must be met by a thoughtful, strategic, investment strategy from the Governor and Oregon Legislature. It’s the only way to make all the pieces fit together and the Ports of Newport, Toledo and Alsea are working to foster those opportunities here in Lincoln County.