I was recently asked, “What five things would you want everyone to know, and remember, about the Port of Grays Harbor?” When you are talking business development the answer is quick and easy — strategic location, access to quality transportation, great workforce, room to grow and proven track record of success. But when you are talking big picture, my answers are more in tune with common misunderstandings about the Port.
I would like to share my list with you in hopes that you can all take pride in the achievements of your public port district and help educate others in the community about their port.
These are not in order of priority:
Private investment on publicly owned port property increases the assessed valuation of Grays Harbor County. This fact grows our tax base and spreads our tax burden out amongst a larger group. In the past six years, more than $220 million has been privately invested by companies located at the Port of Grays Harbor. These companies pay annual property taxes on their plant and equipment, along with the payroll, sales tax and business and occupation taxes required. These investments pay for our school levies, libraries and even city and county tax levies. Every tenant, large and small, is a benefit to our countywide assessed valuation.
Port property tax revenues are invested in public infrastructure, not operations. Every cent of the roughly $2.3 million (.39 cents per $1,000 valuation in 2014) the Port receives in property taxes is invested in capital infrastructure projects. Examples of these types of investments are docks, roads, rail and buildings. This amount is supplemented with revenues from operations, and occasionally grants that allow us to reinvest in these expensive infrastructure projects.
2013 Return on Your Tax Investment: More than $13 of operating revenue were generated for every $1 invested from property taxes. Port operating revenues (money received from leases, fees, and services) pay for the labor, equipment maintenance, supplies, facility usage, management, and administration of the Port. These dollars are also used to build assets like docks, viewing towers, rail, etc. Last year, Port of Grays Harbor operations generated over $13 in operating revenue for every $1 of property tax investment. In addition, millions of dollars were invested by private companies in our community in both long-term plant and equipment investments securing steady employment for our citizens. That is the kind of return we can all take pride in, one that creates jobs today and infrastructure for the future.
Jobs impacted reach beyond our waterfront — While the majority of jobs directly created on Port facilities are around the waterfront, the activities of the Port and the hundreds of businesses that utilize port facilities reach into every community from North Beach to East County and even into Pacific, Mason, Thurston counties and beyond. While we have been careful to only highlight the direct jobs created by companies like Pasha Automotive Services, Imperium Grays Harbor, Ocean Companies and others, it is important to recognize that the Port’s activities keep many working in Grays Harbor. In addition, without the public facilities from which they operate their business, hundreds of independent small businesses would not be successful in Grays Harbor. There are the commercial fishermen, charter operators, logging contractors, truck drivers, rail workers, and others who rely upon the Port’s facilities in one way or another. In relation, hundreds of local companies sell supplies and services to the Port each year. This year we are having an economic impact analysis conducted of the Port’s facilities to better define the role and impact the Port has on our local economy.
The People of the Port are dedicated to strengthening our community — Public ports are unique organizations that are publicly governed but operate like businesses. This sometimes confuses people who think all public entities are the same; we know that’s not true. I can say, without any reservation, that the people you have elected as your Port Commission, Commissioner Stan Pinnick, Commissioner Jack Thompson and Commissioner Chuck Caldwell, expertly and selflessly make decisions for the betterment of the region. Their individual expertise and consistent policy making have resulted in exponential growth and unprecedented success for the Port and Grays Harbor. In addition, your Port staff is comprised of dedicated professionals whose first priority is to perform their work accurately and with fiscal responsibility while serving the citizens of the County. We never forget who we work for. Our customers and service providers have become partners in the effort to strengthen the Grays Harbor economy, and without them, your Port would not be the positive economic engine that it is.
Our hope is that you too can take pride in the positive impact your Port has on the citizens of Grays Harbor County.
Gary Nelson is the executive director of the Port of Grays Harbor.