Study calls Port ‘economic engine’ for Pierce County

The Port of Tacoma is a growing focal point of regional economic development, creating thousands of jobs, driving the economy...

The Port of Tacoma is a growing focal point of regional economic development, creating thousands of jobs, driving the economy of Pierce County, and serving as a statewide catalyst for economic development, according to an impact study presented during the Port Commission study session on July 14.

“The numbers are going up, which I personally find fulfilling, particularly in times of economic uncertainty in parts of the country as the economy globalizes,” said Timothy J. Farrell, the Port’s Executive Director.

The study, which was completed by Martin Associates, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based firm that has conducted similar studies for ports around the United States, reported that more than 43,100 jobs in Pierce County are related to Port activity, and more than 113,000 jobs statewide are connected to the Port.

Doug Martin, president of Martin Associates urged the commission to “pause for a second in order to understand the progress the Port is making toward economic impact on the community.”

Martin and Port officials said the study was proof that the Port is an “economic engine” for Pierce County.

The major findings from the study include:

Job Creation and Growth — Port activity creates jobs in Pierce County: 43,138 jobs in Pierce County are related to the Port’s activities. From 2000 to 2004, Port activity created an average of 2,948 new jobs per year in Pierce County.

Statewide Impact — Across Washington state, 113,160 jobs are related to Port of Tacoma activity. Over time, Port-related jobs have grown from 69,800 in 1988 to 67,200 in 1993, 101,700 in 2000 and 113,160 in 2004.

Family-wage Jobs — Direct, Port-related jobs in Pierce County pay $48,500 – 41 percent more than the County average. Statewide, direct, Port-related jobs pay an average of $44,951.

Port Construction — The Port’s capital projects add to its economic impact. Every $1 million in capital spending creates about eight construction jobs. The Port invested $115 million in capital projects in 2004 – the first year of its five-year $434 million capital development plan.

Stronger Communities — Port business activity generates state and local taxes, helping fund schools, police, fire, road improvement and other services. For Pierce County and its municipalities, more than $13.9 million per year is generated because of Port activity. For Washington state, an estimated $91 million is generated each year.

Statewide Economic Resource — More than 1,350 Washington state firms import or export through the Port of Tacoma.

The Port’s Doug Ljundgren, who served as the study’s project manager, recalled how economic impact studies were overlooked and viewed as insignificant in the past. “We were told that an economic impact study would not get us one more pound of cargo,” Ljundgren recalled. However, that view changed in 1987. Since that time, the Port has updated and published economic impact studies in 1988, 1993, and 2000.

“The numbers documented in this study confirm that the Port of Tacoma is fulfilling its mission of being a global magnet for commerce that creates success for our customers and vitality for our community,” said Farrell. “This study measures the people who have good-paying jobs, the companies that have greater business opportunities and the growing strength of our region – and it’s all tied to Port of Tacoma activity.”

Business connected to the Port does more than create jobs. According to R. Ted Bottiger, President of the Port of Tacoma Commission, Port-related jobs are family-wage jobs – “a precious commodity in today’s economy,” he noted.
“In Pierce County, Port-related jobs earn an average of $48,530 – 41 percent more than the average wage in Pierce County,” Bottiger said, noting that statewide, the average Port-related wage is $44,951.

“The benefit of this job creation extends beyond wages,” added Port Commissioner Connie Bacon. “In 2004, Port activity generated tax dollars for local and state government, helping to pay for schools, police, fire protection and roads. In 2004, the statewide tax benefit was $91 million. For Pierce County and its municipalities, Port activity generated an estimated $13.9 million.

“This is what the Port does. We are looking forward to adding for jobs and greater community benefit in the future,” Bacon said.

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