Bryant Explains New Seaport Alliance, Lays Out Challenges
by Gary Smith
Past President Jim McCurdy introduced club member and Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant, who explained the consolidation of the Seattle and Tacoma seaports – and the remaining challenges to a prosperous maritime economy. From the podium, Bryant introduced Ted Fick, the Port of Seattle’s new CEO, and recognized friend and honorary Seattle #4 member Governor Dan Evans.
Our maritime sector, Bryant said, touches one-third of the state’s economy and accounts for more jobs than aerospace. Further, thousands of these jobs were at risk of moving to British Columbia. Thus, the reason we decided to consolidate is simple, he said: “Jobs.”
Bryant noted our century-old port laws compel the ports to compete against each other, and “we’d gotten good at it.” But over the last decade, he explained, while Seattle and Tacoma competed with each other, Puget Sound’s cargo market share declined as British Columbia’s grew. “We realized that unless we reversed that trend, jobs would follow the cargo. We knew we didn’t have much time.”
To serve the fewer, larger shipping companies now calling in Puget Sound required coordinating investments that are needed in both Seattle and Tacoma to accommodate the new, increasingly larger ships and offering companies a bundle of services that both Elliott and Commencement bays could offer. “So," Bryant said, “we realized the old way of doing business was costing us jobs, and we decided to transform governance to meet the needs of our time.”
In the new Puget Sound Seaport Alliance, the two port commissions are creating the third largest port in North America, behind only L.A./Long Beach and New York/New Jersey. That brings the question of what else needs to be addressed to succeed. The port commissioners, Bryant said, have made it clear to the world that we have decided to compete globally, but “if we’re going to leverage that historic proposition to get the most jobs we possibly can, Washington State has got to make the same decision. And it hasn’t.”
Highway Congestion Threatens Maritime Trade
Bryant detailed how the State has failed to address critical needs in our road system, to reduce congestion, and to make the investments needed to move truck and rail freight. Bryant said that if we are serious about keeping jobs here, Washington State needs to complete the Port of Tacoma/I-5 connector and repair the truck routes in South King and North Pierce counties in the next 36 months. He also called for completing by the end of this decade: SR509 from the Port of Seattle to the Kent Valley, finishing the Port of Everett/I-5 connector, and building 30 needed railroad grade separations. And he proposed the state immediately extend emergency permitting for all bridges and highways that are moving toward significant deterioration. That, he said, would make it clear to the world Washington is prepared to compete.
Karl Ege asked how to pay for these projects. Bryant detailed a plan involving public-private sector partnerships, restructuring the Washington Department of Transportation, tax reform, and eliminating the gas tax by 2025. Bryant said the Port Commissioners are “making the investment decisions to insure that Washington State remains competitive. And if Washington State makes the same decisions, we’ll be a job-generating powerhouse.”
Pike Place Market Kicks Off Expansion
In the short program, President Tom Betts introduced Lillian Hochstein, executive director of the Pike Place Market Foundation, who shared the podium with Ben Franz-Knight, Executive Director of the Pike Place Market Public Development Authority. The Market is beginning a $72 million expansion on its western boundary it is calling the Pike Place “MarketFront” to make a major connection between the downtown and the future central waterfront park, especially with the Market’s “fellow icon, the Seattle Aquarium,” Franz-Knight said.
The MarketFront will support 55 more day stalls for artists and farmers, and add three-fourths acre of new public space and 300 below-ground parking stalls. The expansion will also add 40 units of low-income senior housing and allow the expansion of social services in the Market with a new Neighborhood Center. All of this will flow into the envisioned new ramp to the waterfront and will be ready before the viaduct comes down.
More information – and how you can support the project’s $9 million public fundraising campaign – can be found at http://www.pikeup.org/.
Other Club Business:
• George Twiss introduced new members Molly Carney and April Collier – see their bios in this issue.
• Virginia McKenzie and Honorary Consul General of Brazil Pedro Costa enthusiastically encouraged club members to attend the upcoming Rotary International Convention June 5-8, 2015 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Contact them directly for more information.
• Larry Granat reported that Seattle # 4’s effort have provided 147 kits to families in Sierra Leone caring for Ebola patients in homes, where the caregivers lack the basic tools and protection. The kits, developed in conjunction with World Vision, were packed after the meeting in a room provided by the Westin.
To open the meeting, Admiral Bill Center, standing in for Father Steve Sundborg, gave the invocation Father Sundborg had prepared. Club member (and Salvation Army Divisional Commander) Doug Tollerud led his Band Sextant and club members in Silver Bells.