Employment On the Rise at Port of Skagit

By Mark Stayton, April 11, 2013, Go Skagit

Employment is on the rise for tenants at the Port of Skagit, which collectively experienced a net gain of 103 full-time positions since April of last year — bringing total full-time employment to its highest level since the recession hit the area.

A recent employment census conducted by port staff showed part-time positions rose from 149 to 192 during the same time period. Full-time employment at the port now stands at 874.

The progress made in 2012 and 2013 have led combined employment to exceed 1,000 for the first time since 2009, when the recession hit manufacturers and service providers at the port.

“It feels like we’re finally turning the corner in a significant way,” said Patsy Martin, executive director of the Port of Skagit. “Businesses are feeling more confident because their customers are feeling more confident and are purchasing more product.”

Aerospace manufacturing was the most successful industry over the course of the year, with double-digit increases in full-time positions at Hexcel Corp., Team Corp. and Volant.

Growth in aerospace manufacturing has been fueled recently by airlines needing to replace their aging fleets, said Jim Collins, plant manager of Hexcel.

Some suppliers and service providers for the construction industry prospered as well: Tri-County Truss added 30 full-time positions, Northwest Custom Cabinets doubled its workforce and Bay View Electric located its eight-employee business at the business park.

Most marine-focused businesses at La Conner Marina either held steady or increased jobs last year, bringing total full-time employment from 113 to 131.

Isaac Oczkewicz of La Conner Maritime Services at La Conner Marina said 15 full- and part-time employees were brought on in August when his company started building commercial fishing in a partnership with neighboring boat builder Tomco Marine Group.

“Our business had just been service and repair, but people were interested in an older boat design we hadn’t been producing since the 90s,” Oczkewicz said. He said many of the new boats are filling out Dungeness crab fleets experiencing high demand for their catch.

Tami Noteboom, human resources manager for Tri-County Truss at the Bayview Business Park, said the company’s former parent company filed for bankruptcy and closed in August 2011, but the business was bought by the Truss Company and reopened in October 2011.

“2012 was definitely a growth year for us,” Noteboom said. “Things are definitely looking up in housing, which was good. We had to hire new employees to get the products out.”

While a handful of small businesses came and went from port facilities, overall tenancy remained unchanged.

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