When the new International terminal was first envisioned, all kinds of new economic forces were expected to be unleashed on Yaquina Bay and over all of Lincoln County – if not slightly beyond. There were visions of tourism cruise ships calling – one after another – servicing Newport’s commercial fishing fleet, farm products being loaded onto barges and hauled off to Portland, Tacoma or San Francisco for re-loading onto ocean-going cargo ships headed overseas, finished wood products from local and regional lumber mills, and raw log shipments overseas.
When the terminal was nearing completion, the raw log market to China was heating up. American logs were no longer being reduced to lowly concrete forms for housing construction, China began using those logs for far more noble ends – providing the structure and interior decor for homes to meet the desires of China’s fast-growing middle class. As a result, demand for raw logs exploded and export companies like Teevin Brothers were anxious to gather up as many logs as they could and ship them across the Pacific.
But then, before the final punch list for the completion of the Newport International Terminal could be certified, the Chinese economy began to soften. Growth slowed and with it the log market eventually plunged taking down log prices with it.
So, in some ways, it’s back to square one with the port’s original motivation to rebuild the terminal: Cruise ships, farm exports, servicing the commercial and recreation fishing fleets, helping to generate and ship finished lumber products domestically and abroad… on and on.
That’s not to say the log export business won’t make a comeback because too many believe it will when China’s economy gets re-oriented. But the situation has refocused the port’s central mission – to offer a diversified range of port services, which together produce the maximum economic benefit for the region.
Port of Newport General Manager Kevin Greenwood says he and his staff are redirecting their energies to bring together the business interests and industries that will build a wide range of services so the port doesn’t get over-reliant on any one sector to keep the International Terminal profitable.
Greenwood says driving the terminal’s growth will be public-private partnerships that will gather export companies together and funnel their business through the port by which these brokers and the port are paid for their services, equipment and facilities. He says he and his staff will be working closely with Teevin Brothers as they eventually build their log export operations at the terminal but also as Teevin expands the variety of companies that ship all kinds of product overseas, including finished lumber products.
But in order to speed up this diversification process, Greenwood says they must provide the “missing link” between the makers of export goods and materials and the ships that carry them overseas – a “lay-down area.” Greenwood says it’ll be 9 acres of fully improved heavy-duty pavement complete with storm drains and lighting, to temporarily store products and materials destined for overseas. He says the lay-down area will be expensive which will require applying for grants – probably involving the “Connect Oregon” fund whose monies are derived from the Oregon Lottery and are aimed at speeding up economic development around the state. Greenwood says the port is already preparing application documents to apply for a rather sizeable grant. The Port of Toledo’s recent acquisition of a $4.6 million boat lift came through Connect Oregon.