A new physical home and a new virtual home are both on the drawing board at World Trade Center Tacoma as it enters its 20th year.

After initial investment, a Washington TradePort Internet presence is expected to support itself with banner advertising and links. The traditional marketing value of the World Trade Center name is all it will take to underwrite a new downtown Tacoma location, according to Executive Director John Kennedy.

“The name has value on a building,” Kennedy says of the Trade Center. “It adds prestige and ambiance that are of benefit to the owner of a building. It also will benefit the city in identifying it as a place where trade is important.”

A committee of the WTCTA board is looking at potential developers who will appreciate that prestige and ambiance—attached to a building located in downtown Tacoma, probably on the 1300 block of Pacific Avenue. Both the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team and an independent study chose that site as the optimum location.

WTCTA currently is studying trade centers in other cities to identify features that maximize the impact of their presence. Many of those, including nearby sites in Seattle and Portland, as well as international locations such as Singapore and Osaka, are near convention centers and hotels, as the 13th and Pacific site would be.

A year ago there was concern that rents would not support new construction in Tacoma’s downtown, but that concern is fading as the real estate market continues to heat up. Still, economics make it difficult to say when relocation to downtown will occur, Kennedy says. Uncertainty about what will become of the current tideflats site, which is owned by a partnership that includes real estate developer Bill Riley on land leased from the Port, further complicates the timing.

WTCTA’s virtual presence is much easier to predict. Although wtcta.org underwent redesign last year and its enhancement continues, a TradePort website customized for this state is a major goal for this year. TradePort is a national site with trade data and information, trade opportunities and advertising that import/export companies can easily access and from which they can extract portions of value to them.

The Washington state version will incorporate data on features available locally along with a link to the national site and multiple links to other related sites, such as economic development boards and cities.

“It’s a super gateway,” Kennedy says of TredePort, which attracts 60,000 visits a month.

WTCTA is partnering with the Port of Tacoma, the Trade Center in Seattle and the Port of Seattle in establishing a site for this state. Kennedy points out that the Spokane, the Tri Cities and the Puget Sound Ports Association have endorsed the plan as well. Sponsors will enlist private partners to link to the site for a reasonable price and also hopes to attract advertisers who will make the site financially self-sustaining.

It should be up and running by November, Kennedy says, just in time for WTCTA’s trade mission to Kitakyushu, Japan, from Nov. 9 through 11.

By Janice Smith, Business Examiner staff