By James Casey, December 4, 2014, Peninsula Daily News
The three Port of Port Angeles commissioners Wednesday launched the process for a strategic plan they hope to float before the public as early as April.
In the process, they could sink some of the port’s five lines of business, they said.
Jeannie Beckett, whose Beckett Group was hired to draft the $39,600 plan that will try to anticipate the port’s needs as far into the future as 30 years, presented a schedule that could call for review by select groups of citizens as soon as February.
Commissioners said they would “hand-pick” the participants but did not outline qualifications for whom they might choose.
Meanwhile, commissioners will meet three times each month about the plan. Public meetings across Clallam County could start as early as April.
As for paring the port’s enterprises, Beckett said, “My first ‘Aha!’ was that you have a lot of lines of business. Maybe you want to get out of some of them.”
Public or private?
Commissioner John Calhoun echoed the possibility, saying each enterprise should be examined for how many jobs it provides and whether other public agencies or private businesses could assume the operations.
Presently, the port operates:
■ Rental properties.
■ Marine terminals.
■ Marine trades such as boat-building and topside ship repair on and around Port Angeles Harbor.
■ The Boat Haven and John Wayne marinas in Port Angeles and Sequim.
■ William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles.
After the meeting, Commissioner Jim Hallett asked, “How can you be a jack of all trades and master of none? Are we clearing the return on investment to our stakeholders, the citizens of the district? How do we deliver that?”
The possibility of divesting rental properties “will be an interesting conversation to have,” said Commissioner Colleen McAleer.
“There will be a lot of interesting conversations,” Calhoun promised.
Beckett, whose consulting firm is headquartered in Gig Harbor, said, “I wouldn’t want to clip your wings on the dream” for the port, agreeing with Hallett that the port actually could expand some operations, such as log shipping.
“That’s an opportunity to dream larger,” Hallett said.
Still, Beckett said about the port’s need to separate itself from its private and public competitors, “it’s about playing to win, not playing to play.
“Hard choices have to be made. That will be difficult because there are constituents and staff members you’ll have to say no to,” she said.
Just as important as business viability is public participation in the plan, McAleer said.
“We’re a long, linear county,” she said, noting that the district ranges from Forks eastward through Sequim.
“Unfortunately, people aren’t interested in driving [long distances] to show up [at public hearings]. We want the stakeholders to have input when we are talking about our vision.”
The answer, commissioners agreed, would be to recruit select groups of interested citizens into the discussion — “probably give them a ride,” joked Calhoun, whose district includes the West End — then hold public meetings.
McAleer said commissioners also would pitch the process to service clubs and chambers of commerce in their districts.
“I have heard too often that outlying communities feel we’re not interested in them,” she said.
A tentative deadline of spring is set to adjust the draft plan, but Beckett cautioned that might be too ambitious.
An extra $10,000 could be spent on “additional coaching as requested” from Beckett’s firm, she said.
“This is where you may say, ‘We’re moving too fast.’”
The overreaching challenge will be to fashion a plan for “a diverse community but a small port in a remote location,” she said.
McAleer insisted that the plan incorporate so-called SMART goals — for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely — which Beckett equated with “putting a stick in the sand.”
Calhoun, however, cautioned against a past policy by which port employees had to reference every project to a specific paragraph in the current strategic plan, which was adopted six years ago.
“They would wind up writing a book every time they started a project,” he recalled.
Rather, quarterly reports should track progress under the plan.