By James Casey, January 31, 2015, Peninsula Daily News
“It’s kind of good news and bad news,” was one Port of Port Angeles commissioner’s comment on the port’s latest chance to capitalize on the growing composites materials industry.
John Calhoun referred to previous opportunities that eluded local efforts to make Clallam County a capital for recycling and manufacturing the strong, lightweight, space-age material that accounts for much of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, among other applications from boat hulls to bicycle frames to baseball bats to BMW bodies.
“It seems like every avenue we go down, we get stuck,” Calhoun told his fellow commissioners last week.
Among the chances that passed Port Angeles by:
■ A $70 million U.S. Department of Energy grant for which Washington state was in the chase and that would have helped fund the port’s proposed Composite Recycling Technology Center.
The money went instead to Tennessee, according to Jennifer States, the port’s director of business development.
■ A 20-acre facility proposed for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on Sequim Bay in 2012.
It was sited instead in Everett, States said.
As for the pending application for $2 million to fill the shell of the Composite Recycling Technology Center with classrooms and recycling machinery, there’s a matching requirement that the port could meet partially with a $1 million state Clean Energy grant, States said.
The remaining $1 million, she said, could come from the port’s partners in the project, Peninsula College, the city of Port Angeles and Clallam County.
Still, “that’s exactly what we said the last time,” Calhoun recalled, adding that he still was encouraged by the possibility.
The port has more than $2 million in reserves.
“If we could ask for $1 million and could provide 100 jobs,” Calhoun said, “I would be all over it.”
They’ll always have Paris. Well, at least two of them will.
A pair of representatives of the Port of Port Angeles — maybe three — will attend a composite materials trade fair in the French capital March 10-12, although they’ve scotched the notion of taking a side trip to visit a composites facility in Bristol, England.
There wasn’t time to fit it in, port officials said.
While they touted the networking advantages of attending the annual JEC Composites Conference and said there’d be no substitute for showing up there in person, Commissioner John Calhoun said the trip’s price gave him “a little bit of sticker shock.”
A trip for $20,000?
For Port Commissioner Jim Hallett, Business Development Director Jennifer States and Bremerton-based composites consultant Geoff Wood, the trip will cost less than $20,000, according to States.
That’s roughly a year’s earnings for a minimum-wage worker in Washington.
States said the trip would allow port representatives to watch demonstrations of composite material-handling equipment such as it hopes to install at its Composite Recycling Technology Center at William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles.
“We can go talk to those equipment manufacturers and get the specs that we need,” States said.
As it was in Paris in 2012 and 2013, the port again will be part of a state Department of Commerce booth promoting Washington’s role in composites technology.
“Everybody’s going to be there,” States said of the JEC conference she said will attract 1,200 companies and an estimated 30,000 people from 94 countries to Paris.
“There’s so much buzz about this,” she said about the port’s recycling center, that port officials might be able to recruit clients to it.
The conference coordinator “has reached out to us” to ask about the Composite Recycling Technology Center, or CRTC, she added.
The JEC conference is the largest of its kind in the world, said Commissioner Colleen McAleer, who has attended it twice at port expense.
States said she and Wood definitely would attend. Hallett said he would consider joining them.
States and McAleer said a commissioner’s attendance at the conference “adds weight” to the port agency’s efforts “to really show we’re serious about this.”
Two-time attendee McAleer said “I’m already sold” on the value of the conference.
“I would like to have another commissioner learn firsthand. There’s such an opportunity. We’ve got to get a piece of that,” she said.
Calhoun, however, expressed doubt.
“I have to ask if we really need three people, particularly in light that it’s a trip to Paris,” he said, stressing the last four words.
Calhoun nonetheless voted with McAleer to approve expenses for three people. So did Hallett, although he added:
“You’d better be sure they’re not there just to have escargot or whatever they have there.”