Export This

For those of you who don’t follow local Clatsop County Port of Astoria politics, our not so ready for prime time port commission is embarking on entertaining a company to export logs from Port property.

Over the next few days, walk with me as I take us for a trip down memory lane. The conclusion of this series will provide you with a detailed discourse on why the Port should tread lightly and fully explore their new found idea of exporting logs.

A little history – I know a little bit about port operations as I was a Port commissioner for 13 years starting in 1993. It’s ironic that I was elected on the idea of diversifying port operations so that we weren’t solely dependent on exporting logs. I beat a well known incumbent that in my opinion was sticking with the status quo and that just didn’t provide the tax payers with a good feeling that the status quo was going to continue paying the bills.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s, exporting logs was big business at the port. I can remember my dad taking us down to the docks to watch the longshoremen load the logs onto the ships. I didn’t know it at the time but this experience had a lasting effect on me that would later in life develop my interest in the full workings of the Port. To this day, I hold the Port in high regard and still believe its full potential is yet to be discovered. Unfortunately, there are several port commissioners that are currently serving that are ill equipped for the mission. Until they are replaced, I have little hope things can move forward. The biggest problem they have is their inability to think creatively and think forward. So far the only thing I’ve seen is finger pointing at the past and excuses.

There is a message in this. Quit being a bunch of tools and move it forward. Nobody give a rip about the past.

When I was elected, log exports were on a fairly steep decline and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the bell curve was about to hit rock bottom. At the time, the port didn’t have a lot of other revenue to draw from so the thought of log exports ending would mean financial ruin for the port.

At the same time I was elected, one other new commissioner (Warren Kan) was elected and soon after, one incumbent resigned (Ed Nelson) and was replaced by yet another new face (Frank Little). Together we, along with two other incumbent commissioners (June Spence and the late Bob Lovell) sat down and developed a short term strategy to develop new business at the port.

Two years later, we had landed a few new small business operations and the last logs crossed the docks at the Port of Astoria. For the next couple of years, the budget was very tight. Personnel took pay cuts and we scaled our overhead back. At this same time we hired a new director – Jonathan Krebs to replace former director Bob Miller to start a marketing campaign that focused on the strengths we had at the time – marinas and lots of vacant land. During the Krebs tenure, he landed a few small fish but struggled to turn the corner toward the goal of building port revenue. He was replaced by Peter Gearin.

Peter came to the Port from a highly successful private sector career. We chose him because of his ability to approach business creatively and was definitely a thinker from outside the box. We knew the traditional approach toward luring business was not working, so, as commissioners we knew we needed to do something completely different. We had some excellent talent in house and Peter was quick to make the Harbormaster Bill Cook his right hand man

Coming soon – The Gearin and Cook years.


4 thoughts on “Export This

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to the rest of the story and how your port may (or should) reinvent itself. It would be a good study in how a traditional industry responds to changing market conditions, for better or worse.

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