Big expectations for Port of Seattle’s new CEO Ted Fick

Posted by Erik Smith, September 16, 2014, Seattle Times

The Port of Seattle installed a new CEO last week in what is proving to be one of the highest-profile public positions in the greater Puget Sound area. Ted Fick’s $350,000-a-year salary isn’t bad for government work – but he will face some rather big expectations to match. And eventually he’s going to have to deal with some pretty tough questions.


By now Fick knows what they are. He heard a fair number of them at the press conference that followed his appointment by the Seattle Port Commission. What are the prospects for a merger with the Port of Tacoma? What can the region do to maintain its current market share in container shipping? What about the challenges being posed by Canadian port developments, at Vancouver and Prince Rupert? By an expanded Panama Canal? By proposals to plunk high-traffic basketball arenas and “entertainment districts” right at the port’s front door?


Executive Fick offered a most political answer: “It is only my first day, and I look forward to understanding the issues better.”


Port commissioners said they wanted someone with solid business credentials, and experience leading large organizations. Fick has logged 30 years in transportation, logistics and manufacturing businesses – PACCAR, Goodyear, Ingersoll-Rand, among others. A Tacoma native, Fick got his undergraduate degree at the University of Washington and his MBA at the University of Puget Sound. He replaces Tay Yoshitani, who retired in June after seven years.


Clearly, it is a challenging job. Add to the immediate issues a few others, like the accommodation of ever-larger container vessels in a limited area. And in an age of rising property values, the creation of a community-wide awareness of the importance of preserving the port, together with the surrounding district of warehouses, factories and rail facilities. There aren’t many ports with the natural and man-made advantages Seattle enjoys – a deep-water harbor, mainline rail service, the intersection of two of the country’s busiest freeways, Interstate 5 and I-90.


Fick wasn’t making any bold promises. “I’m ready to dig in and roll up my shirt sleeves and get to work,” he said.


But if he does everything he needs to, he might be worth that $350K.


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