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Port Clings to Fading Hyundai Hopes

by Pat Forgey
Longview, WA, The Daily News, January 20, 2005

The Port of Longview's chances of landing a car-import facility seem to be fading with a published report that Hyundai Motor Corp. is likely to remain at the Port of Portland.

The Portland Business Journal reported this week that the South Korean automaker is likely to renew its lease in Portland and abandon plans to consolidate several import locations at a single new facility.

Port of Longview officials had hoped that new facility might be in Longview, but Ken O'Hollaren, the port's executive director, said the Business Journal article indicates that may no longer be a possibility.

"We've seen that same article," he said Wednesday.

Still, O'Hollaren said the port is not ready to give up wooing Hyundai. The port isn't directly negotiating with Hyundai. Instead, it's dealing with a shipping company hoping to win Hyundai's business.

Port of Portland spokesman Eric Hedaa said no deal has been signed with Hyundai, but he predicted one would be.

"We anticipate that we are going to retain their business here," he said

The chosen port would have to hire at least 150 workers to handle and prep the new cars, not counting the longshore and ship berthing fees the importer would pay, O'Hollaren said.

Local longshoremen would be disappointed to lose the work in Longview, said John Philbrook, president of president of International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 21.

"Obviously, we'd be happy if it was here. I don't think there's any doubt about that," he said.

If the Port of Longview can't get the business, it's good that it stays in Portland, he said.

"Any work we can keep in this river is good for all longshoremen," he said.

O'Hollaren said he's not yet ready to give up on the possibility of bringing car imports to Longview. What the Business Journal article didn't say, he said, was how long a deal Hyundai is poised to sign.

A short-term deal it could simply be designed to give Hyundai time to consider other locations, including Longview, he said.

The permitting process that the Port of Longview has begun for the auto import facility would likely take some time to complete, anyway, he said. Even with a new contract, it would likely be 18 months before Longview could be ready to accept cars, he said.

The port already has spent $145,000 on seeking permits for a new dock and modifications to existing docks needed to import cars, said O'Hollaren.

Attracting a car importer would require some significant new capital expenditures by the port, but O'Hollaren said the port would not consider making those expenditures, estimated to cost $20 million, until it had a contract.

The Port of Longview lost a bid in 2000 to import Toyotas at the port.

Pat Forgey
Port Clings to Fading Hyundai Hopes
The Daily News, January 20, 2005

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