Steve Wilhelm, March 27, 2014, Puget Sound Business Journal
Washington’s maritime industry directly employs about 57,000 people, which is 60 percent of the number of people employed by Boeing, but maritime employment won’t continue to thrive unless it gets more public support.
This was the message from maritime industry leaders during a roundtable discussion at the Port of Seattle on Thursday. Most of the comments were directed at Seattle interim Deputy Mayor Andrea Riniker and City Councilmember Sally Clark, who were both there.
The event, entitled “Seattle Maritime Industry: Decline or Renaissance,” was chaired by Port of Seattle Commission Co-president Stephanie Bowman. Here’s a link for a recorded version of the meeting.
“We’re at a pivotal time for the marine industry in Seattle,” Bowman said at the beginning, pointing out that container maritime trade first started moving through the port 50 years ago. “We need to decide if we have a maritime industry in Seattle over the next 50 years.”
Riniker, a former executive director of the Port of Tacoma, said she’ll take what she learned to Mayor Ed Murray.
“There are many communities that have an airport, but there aren’t many communities fortunate enough to have a deep water port,” she said.
Many of the speakers, who included operators of fish processors and cargo warehouse operators, among others, talked about the need for more awareness of damaging regulations, and more support for education for maritime jobs.
“The aging work force is a challenge; training replacements for our industries is crucial to long-term health and growth,” said Brian Thomas, chief operating officer at Kvichak Marine, a Seattle-based boat builder. “We’ve got to find ways to bring in younger people.”
Attorney Steve Sewell, who is the maritime representative in the state Department of Commerce, pointed out that maritime jobs provide an average salary of $70,200, which is 135 percent of the state average.
“This economic cluster is incredibly vibrant and alive,” he said, speaking to the maritime industry people. “From a state standpoint, we are in alignment with you.”
The port will create a white paper from the conference that will be brought to the city council and Legislature to inform them about future legislation, Bowman said.