Kalama’s Cawley Stepping Down After Two Decades of Dynamic Growth

By Barbara LaBoe, January 24, 2013, Longview Daily News

Lanny Cawley says he can’t remember a time he wasn’t working, but starting April 1 the Port of Kalama’s executive director plans to focus all his attention on relaxation.

Cawley, 64, announced his March 31 retirement Wednesday.

“I’ve worked all my life, and it will be nice to have the rest of my life for myself and my family,” he said.

Cawley has worked at the port for 19 years, including 15 as director, and leaves behind one of the region’s most dynamic ports. He praised the port’s commissioners and employees, but many said Cawley deserves much of the credit for the port’s success.

“Lanny is probably the most outstanding, successful port director over his tenure in the state of Washington,” port commissioner Randy Sweet said. “We haven’t used a tax levy since the mid 1990s, and that’s because of his foresight and running the port as a business and always thinking strategically about where we’re going to generate economic development and grow jobs for the port. … I hate to see him go, but he’s earned it.”

Under Cawley’s leadership, the Port of Kalama recruited the 100-employee Bennu Glass wine bottle plant, developed new properties to attract new industrial customers and maintained operations without charging property taxes.

“Lanny’s steady leadership and direction of port expansion and development has significantly enhanced the region’s economic development and created more jobs at the port,” Commission President Troy Stariha said in a prepared statement.

During Cawley’s tenure, the port:

• Developed the 75-acre Kalama River Industrial Park

• Built a bridge over the Kalama River Bridge linking the port’s north property to the rest of the port.

• Constructed 156,000 square feet of industrial buildings

• Acquired properties east of Interstate 5 or future business and recreational development

• Developed a pedestrian and bike pathway system and expanded the Marine Park.

Several people praised Cawley’s work ethic — Sweet said it was common to get calls from him at 7 in the morning — and his dedication to the port.

“Lanny is uncompromising, and I mean that in the best sense of the word,” said Ted Sprague, president of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council. “He won’t take second best.”

Sprague said he loved taking prospective business leaders to the port because it’s “high-end appearance” always wowed them.

Cawley said it was rewarding to find companies that fit with the port’s mission. Though he wasn’t port director yet, he helped land the port its largest employer, now called Steelscape, in 1997.

“Overall what I’ve enjoyed is creating jobs,” he said. “When the steel mill came in, first as BHP (Broken Hill Propriety Co. ) and now Steelscape, and invested a couple of hundred million dollars and created 300 or so jobs, that’s certainly a highlight. … Creating jobs and enhancing the economic welfare of not only the port district, but the whole county, that was always gratifying.”

Sweet said part of the port’s success was sticking to the long-range plans Cawley helped develop.

“During his tenure we’ve attracted some wonderful industries, and we’ve turned away a lot of others that we didn’t think would fit with where we’re going,” Sweet said. “We developed a strategy and we’ve stuck with it.”

Cawley started in the corporate world and then went to work with the Port of Woodland. He joined the Port of Kalama as director of property development and management/marketing in 1994 and was named port director in 1998.

Port officials have not yet started the replacement process.

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