Although all ports operate under the same state laws, they are each locally controlled to meet the trade and economic development needs of their communities. In fact, ports are the only public agencies whose primary mission is to spur economic development. Some local ports spur the economy through innovative partnerships.

This report focuses on the smaller ports of Centralia, Chehalis and Shelton.

The Port of Centralia, formed in 1986 to help bring jobs and investment to the former “boom or bust” economy of Lewis County, was traditionally characterized by highly cyclical timber harvest and coal mining businesses. The Port determined early on to become the premier site for light-to-medium manufacturing in Lewis County. Since its modest beginnings, the Port has purchased more than 200 acres of prime development property. Operating revenues have climbed from zero to $500,000, allowing the Port to invest heavily in infrastructure. Ten diverse businesses now lease land and buildings in the Port of Centralia Industrial Park and provide 400 jobs.

Earlier this year, the Port of Centralia became part of Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) 216 and received a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to build an FTZ-bonded public warehouse. The 20,000-square-foot warehouse will be available for small or large FTZ 216 users in midsummer of 1999.

The Port of Chehalis, also in Lewis County, is finding its niche through industrial development as well. The Port is developing property in two locations — the Chehalis Industrial Park and the Curtis Industrial Park.

The Chehalis Industrial Park, adjacent to Interstate-5 and midway between Portland and Seattle, offers tenants excellent access to transportation routes. The Park has 40 tenants (with more than 3,000 employees) operating within a wide variety of industries including distribution facilities for Fred Meyer, Circuit City Stores Inc. and Imperial Fabricating. The Curtis Industrial Park, where 700 people now work, was founded by Weyerhaeuser Corporation. It provides rail-served sites. With multiple sites for sale, lease, and build-to-suits at both industrial parks, the Port of Chehalis expects to maintain an impressive growth record.

The Port of Shelton covers 1,700 acres, 550 of them FTZ locations. The Port of Shelton Industrial Park includes an airport and serves light manufacturing businesses while John’s Prairie caters to heavy manufacturing. The Port recently received a grant for a feasibility study to try to bring rail service through John’s Prairie. There are 38 tenants in both locations providing 550 jobs.

Other interesting projects designed to enhance the Port of Shelton’s offerings include restoration of a 125,000-gallon water reservoir and fencing the perimeter of the Sanderson Field Airport.

Each time projects like these are completed at port facilities, diversifying the economies of cities and counties, employment opportunities increase, tax revenues to cities, counties and the state increase, and communities are made stronger.

Author Kathleen Smith is communications manager for Washington Public Ports Association.