Real economic stimulus requires merged Puget Sound Port Authority

OP-ED By Reps. Glenn Anderson, Bruce Chandler and Deb Eddy

For the Puget Sound Business Journal

 

 

As the “Great Economic Meltdown of 2008” continues we are all much more aware of how our economic growth is at risk. Families statewide are tightening their belts and being creative in adapting to the turbulent economic times. Economic forecasts suggest we won't have a quick recovery.

History shows that countries who embrace broad, diversified global commerce succeed and prosper more than their peers. The fundamentals are straight forward: up-to-date ports and their transportation infrastructure are magnets for locating manufacturing jobs and the service industries that support them. More disposable income is generated through this business-based growth, and greater choice of goods and lower prices generate additional tax revenues to reinvest in schools, hospitals and the other top priorities in our communities.

Puget Sound is blessed with three deep-water harbors in Tacoma, Seattle and Everett. We are the natural pacific gateway to the North American trade zone of the United States, Canada and Mexico. Unfortunately, our ports have not acted to maximize this unique advantage.

Merging the Puget Sound ports not only affects the economy of Western Washington. The farmers and industries in Eastern Washington depend on the Puget Sound ports to get their goods to domestic and international markets. While our foreign trade relationships are improving our export markets more than ever before, we need an efficient port district to realize the potential growth now, and in the future.

The ports of Tacoma, Seattle and Everett each currently operate as separate business entities. Each has had its individual successes and challenges. While we are strong believers in competition, our business plan needs to change. Our competition is no longer within our state borders. We're competing with all the ports in the Western hemisphere for business. The world has gotten smaller. Our Canadian cousins in British Columbia have recognized this reality and are well along in merging, integrating and increasing investments in port operations. We need to meet the challenge of being competitive in the next generation.

Last year we introduced legislation to merge the ports of Tacoma, Seattle and Everett into a single Puget Sound Port Authority to better compete in the global marketplace and provide better value to taxpayers. While not committing to a course of action, the Ports of Seattle and Everett have expressed an openness and willingness to investigate the opportunity; however the Port of Tacoma has resisted claiming that competition between Puget Sound port districts provides better economic benefits. To date, we find no evidence to support such a claim.

Again this year we introduced legislation that would require the Washington Institute of Public Policy Studies, the independent research arm of the Legislature, to conduct a comprehensive review of the three major Puget Sound port districts' business operations, overseas marketing operations and capital infrastructure plans, and then compare the consolidated findings to the same activities of similar port operations worldwide. This report would be required to be sent to the Legislature for review and recommendations. This arms-length approach is fair to all and limits the bias of any particular entity and removes any tilt in the results toward a preferred outcome.

This should not be a turf war, but rather an opportunity to create prosperity. It's time to rethink how our ports can provide a real and lasting stimulus by creating opportunities for new family-wage jobs statewide.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov