By Coral Garnick, November 21, 2013, Seattle Times
As the second day of Seattle’s Pacific Marine Expo kicked off Thursday, the buzz among the attendees — fishermen and legislators alike — was a newly released economic report boasting of Washington’s $30 billion maritime industry.
In the state, a maritime industry that traces its roots back to Hudson’s Bay Co.’s commissioning of the S.S. Beaver, the first steamship in the Pacific Northwest, generates $15.2 billion in direct revenues and is responsible for 57,700 jobs.
When combined with indirect revenues, the numbers increased to $30 billion and more than 148,000 jobs in 2012, according to the comprehensive study commissioned by the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County and the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County.
Among the 250 people at the Maritime Industry Forecast Breakfast on Thursday morning at CenturyLink Field was state Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, who said she was blown away by the numbers.
“It is staggering,” said Tarleton, a former Port of Seattle commissioner. “The maritime industry is much more intertwined in the critical economy of Washington state than anyone would have imagined.”
The industry includes boat and shipbuilding, repair and maintenance; maritime-support services; fishing and seafood processing; maritime logistics and shipping; and passenger water transportation. As a unit, Tarleton estimated, the maritime industry is second only to the aerospace industry, and is critical for the middle class of the state.
Chris Mefford, president of Community Attributes, which produced the study, said he was pleased to present his findings at this week’s expo, commonly referred to as the Fishing Expo, because all the industries dependent on Puget Sound are often discussed separately.
“Fishing is totally different from shipbuilding, which is different from ferries, but for other policy and economic development purposes, they are similar,” he explained after his presentation. “They are all affected by common regulations — so it is good to appreciate it as a whole.”
The fishing expo is the one time during the year when all the members of the maritime industry come together under one roof.
This year is the 47th expo, and it attracted more than 450 exhibits, ranging from boat engines to shipbuilders and from life jackets to electronic gadgets. And with more than 8,000 attendees, 70 percent of whom are Washington residents, people from the different industries have the opportunity to mingle and see the impact they can have.
Thursday afternoon, Frank Foti, president of Vigor Industrial, a shipbuilding and repair company in Seattle, was the expo’s keynote speaker. He explained the resurgence of the maritime industry in the Pacific Northwest to an eager crowd of boatsman.
“Events like this help bring people together and connect the pieces of the industry,” he said after his presentation. “Every piece has its own small corner of the industry, but we don’t realize they are all connected.”
During his speech, Foti talked about the growth of Washington’s maritime industry, which he said could be demonstrated simply by stopping and listening to the buzz around the expo floor.
“The best proof of the vibrancy of the industry returning is the energy in the room here,” he said.
David Hansen, who fishes in Alaska and Washington, said he couldn’t agree more. He has been going to the fishing expo for the last 25 years and said the past couple of years more people have attended, demonstrating the growth of not only in fishing, but the maritime industry as a whole.
“In the early 2000s, it was pretty grim down here,” Hansen said.
“They were pretty much writing the obituary for the fishing industry back then,” his fishing buddy Jeremy Brown added.