In Our View: Port Pursues Missing Link

Columbian Staff, May 7, 2013, The Columbian

For one aspect of the local economy, this could be considered the missing link.While the Port of Vancouver has been aggressively pursuing development in recent years, a key part of its long-range plans has been inaccessible. A large parcel of land that is not owned by the port sits nestled between two port-owned properties — Terminal 5 and Columbia Gateway.

Imagine trying to effectively run a car dealership if your economy cars are at one site and your trucks are on the other side of property owned by another company. It can be done, but it won’t be easy.

That is why the Port of Vancouver has set its sights on a 94-acre parcel of land adjacent to properties it already owns. The area in question surrounds the port’s 40-acre Terminal 5 West.

Officials have signed a letter of intent to purchase the land currently owned in part by Moorage 5 Properties and in part by Hickey Family Company. The parcels, as reported recently in The Columbian by Aaron Corvin, have been assessed for tax purposes at a value of about $3.2 million, although the sale price has yet to be determined.

The agreement gives the parties involved until mid-June to hammer out the details, and the port’s three elected commissioners will have the final say over any deal. While we trust that the public’s best interest will be considered throughout the process, we urge port officials to pursue this deal.

Despite a struggling economy in recent years, the Port of Vancouver has continued to seek development and expansion, placing itself in a strong position for when the national and regional economy returns to full strength. The port has moved to expand rail service throughout its 2,127 acres, has 100 acres ready for development, and has 500 acres planned for future development.

Still, officials appear to be conscientious in their thinking. The board is operating under a budget of $64.01 million this year, slimmed down from the 2012 budget of $80.18 million.

The bottom line: Development equals jobs. The port expects to create 1,000 permanent jobs over the next five to 10 years.

Additional growth could come from the development of the Columbia Gateway parcel, the area currently orphaned on the other side of the parcel being considered for purchase. As Jerry Oliver, Port of Vancouver Commission president, said, the purchase would give port officials a clear shot for developing the Gateway parcel, allowing rail lines to reach the area. Oliver also noted that Gateway, a waterfront property, has room for at least three more vessel berths.

It might take years for all this to come to fruition, but the forward-thinking outlook of port officials will pay dividends for generations to come.

While a prosperous economy requires diversity and a foundation built upon numerous strong industries, the Port of Vancouver remains essential to the fortunes of the region. Clark County’s prosperity has relied for centuries upon the Columbia River, and this remains true even in a global economy.

These days, Vancouver’s port is the third-largest in Washington and the second-largest on the Columbia River. It handles everything from steel and wind turbines to automobiles and bulk materials, with 85 percent of its business being exports.

And as it prepares for the next step in its evolution, Vancouver’s port might be on the verge of filling in its missing link.

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