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News / Clark County News

Port of Vancouver touts big numbers for economic impact

Facility provides nearly 4,000 direct marine and nonmaritime jobs but supports another 20,000 jobs

By Jeffrey Mize, Columbian staff reporter
Published: September 24, 2019, 8:51pm
5 Photos
A flock of geese fly over Chris Stockwell as he secures a load of steel at the Port of Vancouver on Monday.
A flock of geese fly over Chris Stockwell as he secures a load of steel at the Port of Vancouver on Monday. (Photos by Nathan Howard/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Port of Vancouver provided or supported more than 24,000 jobs in 2018, according to an economic impact study released Tuesday.

If the 24,000 figure seems high, it’s because it includes more than the 3,910 direct jobs at the port.

Direct jobs include 2,458 jobs at marine terminals and 1,452 jobs by port tenants, such as in manufacturing and warehousing.

The report says the 24,068 jobs also includes:

• 3,209 induced jobs from people employed in direct jobs spending money on assorted goods and services in the four-county metro area — Clark and Oregon’s Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties — plus Cowlitz and Skamania counties.

Port of Vancouver by the numbers in 2018

24,068 — Total jobs provided or supported by the port.
3,910 — Direct jobs at the port in maritime activities or tenant businesses.
$56,415 — Average annual salary for direct jobs.
$71.4 million — State and local taxes generated by direct jobs.


• 3,220 indirect jobs from companies providing direct jobs making purchases from equipment providers, fuel companies and other suppliers.

• 13,729 related jobs tied to port imports and exports, such as auto dealerships that sell imported Subarus.

“These (related) jobs typically would exist if the port didn’t exist, albeit they would face higher (transportation) costs,” John Martin, president of Martin Associates, told the port’s commissioners during a Tuesday presentation.

Martin’s firm, based in Lancaster, Pa., prepared the economic study, which updates previous studies the company did in 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2014.

The Port of Vancouver says that direct jobs make the port and its tenants Clark County’s second largest employer.

“For those who didn’t know it, the Port of Vancouver is important for the economy,” Commissioner Jerry Oliver said at the end of the presentation.

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center is the county’s biggest employer, with 4,571 full-time employees at the medical center, outlying clinics and headquarters, as of December 2018.

Steel, grain, autos

Last year was the Port of Vancouver’s fifth consecutive year for record cargo volumes, with 8.1 million metric tons passing through the port. (A metric ton is 1,000 kilograms, or 2,204.6 pounds.)

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According to the economic study, three items accounted for more than two-thirds of the maritime-related jobs at the port: imported steel, 32.7 percent; exported grain, 20.4 percent; and imported automobiles, 14.3 percent.

United Grain Corp. operates the largest grain elevator on the West Coast. The Port of Vancouver provides the nation’s largest gateway for imported Subarus.

The economic study placed the total value of cargo and tenant activity at the port at $3.76 billion. That represents an $860 million increase from 2014 and was primarily due to continued growth in steel imports and grain exports.

“The port has done a great job keeping us working,” Cager Clabaugh, president of Local 4 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said in a statement. “They’ve attracted a wide variety of cargoes that keep the ships coming and keep our members on the job, even with global trade uncertainties.”

The ongoing trade war with China isn’t reflected in the economic study for 2018, in part, because the Trump administration didn’t announce the first tariffs until March 2018.

“We would really be looking at that in 2019,” Martin said after Tuesday’s presentation.

Despite intense volatility between the world’s two economic superpowers, the Port of Vancouver set a record for operating revenue during the first half of 2019. The port brought in $22.6 million in revenue, an 18.5 percent increase from the first six months of 2018.

Residency, taxes

According to the study, 45 percent of nearly 4,000 people directly employed at the port live in Vancouver, while 32 percent live elsewhere in Clark County. Fifteen percent live in Multnomah County.

The study concluded that the port’s marine terminals and its nonmaritime tenants generated $71.4 million in state and local taxes in 2018. Of that total, $57.6 million went to Washington and $13.5 million to Oregon, with only $300,000 going to local governments.

Commissioner Don Orange highlighted the $13.5 million to Oregon, which prompted a quip from Oliver, sitting to his left on the dais.

“Remember that when you are paying your toll on (Interstate 5) next year,” Oliver said, apparently referring to Oregon’s proposal to toll I-5 between North Going Street and Southwest Multnomah Boulevard.

Columbian staff reporter