Despite economic turmoil in Asia, the Port of Tacoma experienced its second best year ever for container volumes. Other highlights for 1998 included construction work on the new Hyundai Terminal at the Port, a project that created more than 200 construction jobs and will create more than 300 permanent jobs when the terminal opens in April 1999.

Port activity also created new jobs and investments for Pierce County in the area of industrial and economic development. Two major new firms opened in the Frederickson area—James Hardie Building Products and Medallion Foods.

Together, these two firms brought 140 jobs and $69 million in private investment to Pierce County.

As we attempt to forecast 1999 and beyond, a key question is: When the Asian economy rebounds and growth returns, which ports will be able to handle the increased volumes?

The Port of Tacoma is taking major steps toward a future that will see increased trade volumes and more jobs for the Pierce County area. Here is how the Port is planning to be more successful and competitive in 1999:

Hyundai Terminal: In 1998 the $60 million, 60-acre Hyundai Terminal continued to move along ahead of schedule and under budget. The terminal, along with a dockside 12-acre intermodal rail yard, is due to open by April. Hyundai’s presence in Tacoma will boost our trade volumes as well as our continued reputation as a world-class container port.

Regina Maersk: In September, the largest container vessel ever to call a North American port called at the Port of Tacoma. This 6,000 TEU vessel is symbolic not only of the future trends in shipping, but also of the future challenges that ports will be facing to stay competitive in the container business. The Port of Tacoma is meeting these challenges by working to expand the Sea-Land Terminal (where Maersk calls), as well as exploring the feasibility of deepening the Blair Waterway to 51 feet.

Transportation Improvements: The Port of Tacoma and the Port of Seattle have been working together to help secure funding and prioritizing the major rail and road improvements our state needs in the years ahead to keep both cargo and commuters on the move. State voters’ passage of Referendum 49 in November will help us meet some of these transportation needs.

Strategic Planning: The Port, working in conjunction with our customers, the community and longshore labor, undertook a major strategic planning effort in 1998. The process included establishing seven lines of business, with the intent to improve our Port’s focus on meeting the needs of our customers and our community.

Capital Improvement Plan: The Port’s long-term capital improvement program calls for nearly $300 million in capital improvements, reflecting our confidence in the future. One of the most important elements of this program is a $54 million investment in intermodal rail and road improvements that will help serve our current customers as well as future customers.

By taking these initiatives, and by working in partnership with our customers and community on issues ranging from transportation to broader economic development, the Port will continue to work to reach its true potential in 1999 as a major economic engine for the Pierce County region.

Author Dick Marzano is president of the Port of Tacoma Commission and formerly was a leader in local Longshoremen and Warehousemen’s Union.