Managing strait and air transportation means more than keeping ports of entry operational; it means being ready to facilitate a better economy and way of life, according to Jim McEntire.
McEntire, sworn in as Port of Port Angeles commissioner Jan. 14, has some ambitious plans for the Sequim area that he hopes to align with port operations.
“The port’s function is to provide economic infrastructure, mostly by transport in the past but has expanded into real estate and tourism development,” McEntire said. “I’ve been researching what the state requires from port authorities and what those leaders are allowed to do with their operations, and I see a lot of potential in Clallam County and especially Sequim.”
McEntire ran for the position unopposed last year. He moved to the area in 2006 and immediately began looking to find where he could be involved.
“The port was an ideal place for me, with a background in strategic planning and budgeting with the Coast Guard,” he said. “Plus, there are functions of government that I think could improve the quality of life in this area, and the port’s strategic plan supports what I’d like to see happen in that direction.”
He said the plan is reasonably good, but he thinks the commissioners need to include specific goals and timelines that can be reviewed periodically. McEntire, who represents the east end, has a few goals ready for submission.
First year in office
“This is a six-year term, which gives me plenty of time to pull on some ropes and get some big rocks moving to hopefully open a channel of commerce to the research and light industrial trade in Sequim,” McEntire said. “The Innovative Partnership Zone designation the Economic Development Council and Battelle’s Marine Research Lab won from the state is a springboard for this type of business attraction and retention.”
The council and research lab teamed with Peninsula College to create the research-based cooperative last fall. McEntire sees the state designation as a means to bring more high-tech and low-volume research or industrial firms to the area.
“The service industry is doing fine on the east end and what I’d like to see are more family-wage jobs, and the port can help with that,” McEntire said. “We can work with certain real estate to set up the infrastructure, like with the area’s high quality fiber optic capabilities, that will attract relocating businesses or local entrepreneurial ventures.”
Veteran port commissioner John Calhoun, appointed as president of the commission at the Jan. 14 meeting, said the port has plans in 2008 to help make it happen.
“Whether it’s through new acquisitions or through expansion of current facilities, like the light-industrial we have at the Fairchild Airport, we’d like to explore creating more opportunities for higher paying jobs to come to Clallam County,” Calhoun said.
The mere mention of airports strikes a chord with McEntire.
“We need to turn our airports into survivable, self-sustaining operations in order to keep them operational for the economic benefits and in case of a disaster,” he said. “I’m hoping to coordinate with the county’s emergency management operator Bob Martin to make sure we are in step with his response plans.”
McEntire and Calhoun have plans for the future of port operations as well, for instance McEntire would like to see Horizon Air have a place in the airport one day.
McEntire said the Port of Seattle is expecting its transportation container volume to double within the next 10 years. With the possibility of polar ice caps melting, giving way to new shipping lanes, he expects that number to grow.
“What is the first port in Washington coming from the north?” McEntire asks. “With increased marine terminal capabilities, we would be able to handle some of that traffic, an amount that makes sense for our own transportation situation.”
McEntire and Calhoun agree that the Port Angeles harbor is not likely to be a super port for container shipment, without a railroad or dependable traffic infrastructure, but that it can service some of the container needs locally.
“We need a large barge dock and facility for room to organize cargo, both things possible for the future,” Calhoun said. “It makes sense with the cost of oil. Our solid waste is trucked from P.A. to Tacoma and takes a rail to Vancouver, where it is barged down the Columbia to a landfill in Oregon. That travel can be minimized.”
Both commissioners see potential connections between natural resource extraction, light industrial operations and the ability to ship out and accept cargo through the harbor.
Calhoun, representing the west end on the commission, also is teaming with the city of Forks to create a plan for the construction of a motor sports park.
“We’ve been having drag races out there, but there is a big motocross contingent as well,” Calhoun said. “Establishing a permanent place for these activities could be a great economic opportunity here in Forks.”
For more information about the Port of Port Angeles, visit its Web site at www.portofpa.com.