Port Official Visits Boise to Tout Ships’ Useby Michael Journee
Idaho Statesman, August 27, 2002
Portland facility benefits many Idaho businesses
The Snake and Columbia rivers provide Idaho with an international connection that is “almost indescribable” in value.
That´s according to Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Port of Portland, who was in Boise on Monday to promote the port´s Idaho connections, including J.R. Simplot Co., its biggest Idaho customer.
“If it´s a french fry in Asia, it probably went through the Port of Portland,” port spokesman Bob Applegate said.
“And it probably came from Simplot,” Wyatt added quickly.
Other Idaho companies — Boise Cascade and Potlatch among them — count on the “slack water” transport system to the Port of Lewiston to get their products to the world.
Nearly $14 billion worth of goods from Idaho, Washington and Oregon, mostly agriculture commodities and timber products, left the port last year, Wyatt said.
Although no specific numbers about the amount of Southeast Idaho goods that travel to overseas ports through Portland were available, Wyatt said, many of the region´s industries were formed on the back of the cheap transport provided by the rivers and the port.
“A lot of people get hung up about power production when the dam-breaching subject comes up,” Wyatt said during his visit.
The port is opposed to breaching the four lower Snake River dams that salmon advocates say are threatening the fish with extinction.
“Slack water is pretty essential to our operation,” Wyatt said.
The river transportation is just as important to the regional economy as the Northwest´s low power rates, he said.
“When people think about the Port of Lewiston, they often just think about the 13 or 14 people who work at the port facilities,” Wyatt said. But the economic benefit goes far deeper than that, he said.
Wyatt met with Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and also made a presentation to Boise State University´s international business students and faculty members.
“Northwest producers of everything from wheat and potatoes to wood products and machinery face strong and growing competition worldwide for their products,” Wyatt said. “It´s vital our regional importers and exporters … have reliable, efficient, low-cost freight transportation options ….”
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