Port of Vancouver
by Bill Stewart
Officials earmark $15 million in the budget
for expansion and plan for new warehouses and acres of industrial space
VANCOUVER -- The Port of Vancouver, after solid growth last year, is looking for another good year in 2005 and could benefit from California's cargo glut, community business leaders heard Wednesday. Port Executive Director Larry Paulson told about 200 people attending the district's annual progress-report breakfast that the 93-year-old agency is "embracing growth and expansion."
The audience also learned that Port Commissioner Bob Moser, who has served for 18 years, will not seek another six-year term in the 2006 election.
"I have been contacted by three or four potential candidates who wanted to know if I was running again," said Moser, who officially announced his decision, although he declined to identify those interested in his position. Moser said he first joined the commission because the Port was not interested in the environment two decades ago.
Paulson said the Port has invested nearly $60 million during the past five years on new facilities and environmental projects. He said that because all of the district's industrial buildings are in use, two new warehouses and 20 acres of industrial space will be built this year. For marine cargo, a 100,000-square-foot warehouse is planned this year for goods such as pulp, lumber, plywood and steel, and special projects such as windmills.
Paulson said this year's $58.1 million budget includes $15 million for expansion.
Paul Sorensen of BST Associates -- a marine cargo and economic-analysis consulting group based in Bothell -- predicted sustained growth of more than 3 percent annually for the Port through 2008.
Sorensen said China, India, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam are forecast to have the fastest economic growth among nations in the next year, "and these factors create an opportunity for Washington state ports. . . . International trade matters tremendously to every region of our state and every sector of our economy. There are more than 5,500 Vancouver family wage jobs associated with port activity."
Sorensen also said that too-rapid growth in California ports can be a bonus for Northwest ports.
"For 25 years we have been forecasting the probability that California ports would hit the wall when growth overwhelms their facilities," he said. About 100 vessels have been diverted to other ports, he said, though most have been to Puget Sound. California ports have been plagued by a lack of container storage space, a shortage of rail cars, and problems with container-loading systems.
He said Vancouver's shipping future depends on deepening the Columbia River channel, dredging channels in Snake River reservoirs and renovating the Vancouver-to-Portland railroad bridge.
Paulson said 71 percent of the Port's marine trade tonnage in 2004 was grain exports.
"Our friends at the grain elevator attributed this to an excellent crop year as compared to other countries," he said. "That's not just for wheat, but also for feed grain including corn and soy beans. One of the biggest buyers for grain is China, especially when you recognize the weaker U.S. dollar. "
Other major cargoes that passed through the Port last year, Paulson said, included copper concentrates, scrap steel, imported jet fuel and caustic soda.
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