Local View: Port prepared for future

Vancouver agency focuses on continuing to add employers, jobs

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In anticipation of our upcoming Port Report breakfast on April 23, I'd like to share my perspective on the Port of Vancouver's recent history. Much is happening at the port. It's a dynamic organization that meets challenges and embraces opportunities on a daily basis. It is also a public agency, and we are truly grateful for the support of our community — and we want to tell our story whenever possible.

The last six years have built the foundation for the next century at the Port of Vancouver. Since we turned dirt on our West Vancouver Freight Access rail project in 2008, we have focused on attracting jobs, private investment and prosperity to our community. The port has strategically planned and invested to make this port a partner in our region and around the globe. We've thoughtfully defined our mission, to generate economic benefit for our community, and we've dedicated our resources to build world-class rail infrastructure, marine facilities and industrial buildings; and we are seeing the results of our efforts.

The port's future is built upon our modern transportation assets, emphasizing rail-dependent bulk cargoes such as minerals, grains and liquid bulks — commodities currently handled at the port with the potential for exponential growth. We continue to diversify our cargoes to safeguard against fluctuations in the global market — a strategy that has served us well as we experienced significant growth even through the recent recession. As we complete our rail improvements, we are steadily expanding our ability to handle high-volume cargo while strengthening our region's connection to an efficient national rail system.

As a public agency, we are accountable to a broad range of stakeholders. We seek partners that share our commitment to building strong communities, exhibit strong corporate social responsibility, desire to invest locally, and are prepared to commit to long-term partnerships. These are decisions that benefit our stakeholders by maximizing the return on investment for our primary investors — the citizens of Clark County.

Our strategy for growth is focused on promoting industrial development and handling a wide variety of domestic and international cargoes. Our goal is to attract companies that are well capitalized, invested in products with long-term market viability, and employ leading edge environmental best management practices. We seek opportunities for business growth that result in added jobs, economic activity and tax revenue to our community to fund those public services which contribute to our exceptional quality of life. The port's 100 years of history proves that our investment in transportation infrastructure, industrial facilities and marine logistics attracts private-sector investments.

Creating opportunity

The port's strategic transportation and property investments, combined with a solid understanding of our competitive advantage, are creating the right opportunities. We have attracted one of the largest corporations in the world to the port. BHP Billiton selected the port's Terminal 5 as its preferred site for a new potash export facility — supplying a key component of fertilizer to a growing global market. Farwest Steel has been in full operation since the fall of 2012, and is already employing more than 200 people. Sapa Profiles joined the port in 2012 and now has 100 highly skilled employees at its aluminum extrusion plant.

We are confident that as we complete the roadways and other infrastructure at Centennial Industrial Park, we will have partners ready to invest and bring jobs to our community in 2014. And we are truly hopeful that United Grain Corporation and its labor force will come to a resolution soon to maximize the investment of the new soybean and corn export facilities constructed last year.

Thanks to solid partnerships and the support of our community, we are building on a solid foundation and have positioned the port well for the next generation. We still have work to do, including completion of our rail project and development of new industrial lands, but we have a clear vision and are thoughtfully making decisions that we believe will result in good things for our community.

Todd Coleman was appointed chief executive officer of the Port of Vancouver in May 2012 after serving as the port’s deputy executive director since July 2005. He is in his seventh year serving on the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board as a representative of the state’s public ports.