Port of Vancouver, city team up to enhance job growth

Port commissioners OK their part of interlocal pact for economic development

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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When opportunities arise to help businesses grow and to create jobs, the Port of Vancouver and the city of Vancouver want to be able to move quickly to grab them.

To that end, port and city officials are working on a formal agreement intended to streamline their ability to collaborate on economic development projects, including marketing the region to businesses and crafting land-use and transportation plans.

It's a broad agreement. It requires the port and city to define how they'll work together, including which agency will take the lead on a project, how they'll pay for it and when they'll get it done.

No financial commitments have been made yet, and no specific projects have been targeted.

Nevertheless, the port on Tuesday moved forward with its end of the deal, as its Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the interlocal agreement as recommended by port administrators.

That recommendation spelled out the expected impacts of the agreement, including that it will enable the port and the city to better serve the public "by efficient use of public resources and shared planning" to help spur economic growth.

The Vancouver City Council is expected to sign off on the city's part in the agreement on Nov. 5.

To be sure, the port and city have worked together before, including recently helping Farwest Steel Corp. obtain $48 million in federally subsidized financing to build and equip its steel fabrication plant on land it purchased from the port.

Last year, Farwest's CEO, Patrick Eagen, said in a news release that the federal business tax credit allocations secured by the port, city and other parties "were significant in allowing this project to proceed."

The Farwest deal came together without the interlocal agreement the port and city are now seeking. But city and port officials said it's an example of why it's important for them to strengthen their relationship. And the new agreement would lay the groundwork for the city and the port to act more quickly as a team when other companies come looking to do business on a tight deadline, said Alisa Pyszka, the city's business development manager.

The agreement — which would last for five years, ending in December 2017 — also would enable the port and the city to share the costs of an economic development project.

Port rules allow Executive Director Todd Coleman to sign service contracts of up to $200,000 without first getting approval from the port's elected board.

If the port pursues a project with the city under the interlocal agreement, Coleman would have to OK it, and the port's cost would be limited to no more than $200,000.

Pyszka said the city is still working out the details of how it would handle paying for projects under the agreement with the port.

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ;http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com.