Port’s 2020 budget focuses on future developments

Ward: 'If we don't hit a home run on the waterfront, we might be in dire straits'

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An aerial view of Port of Camas-Washougal properties. (Contributed photo courtesy of Blue Turtle Pro Media)

Port of Camas-Washougal officials are laying the groundwork for several major projects, with construction slated to begin within the next three years.

“2020 will be big for designing and grant-applying,” said Kim Noah, the Port’s director of operations. “Then, 2021 and 2022 will be big construction years.”

At their Oct. 22 meeting, Port commissioners voted to adopt the agency’s 2020 budget, which projects revenues of $4,122,897 and expenses of $3,845,294, for a net profit of $277,603.

“I feel we’re headed in a good financial direction,” Noah said. “Our net income is staying steady. I feel really strong about all of our operations. The Port’s really healthy right now. Next year’s going to be another great year. There will just be a lot of focus on the waterfront development. That’s kind of the unknown piece we have right now, but on our other three operations it’s full steam ahead.”

Commissioner Bill Ward agreed with Noah.

“(The budget is) pretty solid,” Ward said. “The most important thing is: What is the income from the airport, and what are the expenses? Are we making money? Same thing with the industrial park, which we have a large income from, and we should, because we have developed it, and we’ve got ongoing tenants.”

Ward added that “general and administrative expenses can end up biting into profits if you don’t keep an eye on them,” but said he believed the Port’s chief executive officer, David Ripp, “does a good job of minimizing those expenses.”

The Port’s 300-acre industrial park will continue to serve as its main economic driver — at least until the Waterfront at Parker’s Landing project is fully developed. At the Oct. 7 meeting, Noah told commissioners the industrial park is responsible for 62 percent of the Port’s operational revenue.

The industrial park, which is home to about 40 businesses that provide more than 1,000 jobs, is at 100-percent occupancy and seems to be thriving. Over the past six months, Noah has been forced to reject six businesses interested in leasing a combined 25,000 square feet of space in the industrial park due to a lack of available space.

“Washougal is definitely of interest for people to come and live, and that just brings those businesses here for them to try to open up in our industrial space,” Noah said. “It’s really hard pushing people away. It’s definitely a missed opportunity for sure, but that’s the struggle that we have as a government agency — you only have so much money that you can acquire.”

That’s why Port officials are excited about their plans to construct an additional building in the industrial park. Noah is currently in the process of applying for a grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) that could provide funds to assist with the construction of “Building 20,” which will be located on a 5.8-acre parcel adjacent to Building 18. The 50,000-square-foot facility will be able to be subdivided into 15 3,300-square-foot bays.

The Port has allocated $271,250 from its 2020 capital projects budget for engineering and design of Building 20, which Noah estimates will cost $6 million to construct.

“The industrial park is a huge factor for us,” she said, “and so we want to keep growing it.”

The Port has major developments planned for 2020 at its other operations as well.

At Grove Field Airport, a flight planning center will be installed in early 2020. The Port has allocated $40,000 for the purchase of the center, which Noah described as a “modular, portable unit,” in its 2020 capital projects budget.

“It will have a space for a lounge for pilots to come in. They can figure out their flight plan in there. It will have internet access for them. And we’ll provide some marketing material, too, so that someone coming in (can find out) where to go to have a meal or to spend the night,” Noah said. “Those are the sorts of amenities that (pilots) have been looking for. … They can go in there and sit down and relax … before they go back out (on another flight).”

To boost income from Parker’s Landing Marina, Port officials have been in preliminary discussions to enter into an agreement with Portland Spirit Cruises and Events, which offers sightseeing and dining boat cruises on the Willamette River in downtown Portland and on the Columbia River in the Gorge. Portland Spirit has expressed an interest in moving its Beacon Rock cruise starting point from Portland to Parker’s Landing Marina in Washougal.

In addition, the Port has allocated $11,000 from its 2020 capital projects budget for design and permitting to reconstruct its breakwater access ramp for improved accessibility.

“It would be great tourism for people to come to Washougal from other areas to go on this tour,” Noah said. “(The tours are) going to bring a lot of traffic here, people wanting to know about this area. The tourism aspect is kind of what 2020 is all about for the marina by making our breakwater access ramp more accessible for everybody and (bringing in) the commercial boats.”

As part of its efforts to boost recreational opportunities, the Port will pay close attention to the city of Washougal’s Waterfront Connector Trail project, which endeavors to connect the secondary trailhead of the Port’s Washougal Riverfront Trail to Steamboat Landing. The project, which will create a continuous trail from Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge to the Washougal waterfront, is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2020.

“It’s a big piece for making everything flow together,” Noah said of the trail project. “You can be in downtown and walk to the waterfront, because it’s not that far away for someone who enjoys walking. People have been saying they want the trail to extend longer. This will allow businesses in downtown (Washougal) to get that tourism money as well.”

The Port will continue to progress with its waterfront development, which saw significant milestones in 2019 with the selection of Portland-based RKm Development as lead developer, the conceptualization of concepts aided by significant community input and the expected selection of a phase-one design in December.

In 2020, the Port expects to enter into a memorandum of understanding, then a formal agreement, with RKm Development.

“There will be work on finishing the design of phase one,” Noah said. “I think people will hopefully get bits and pieces of what that (will look like). Right now it’s exciting because people are starting to see what it might be.”

According to Ward, the Port’s prioritization of the waterfront property has hurt its ability to fund other projects such as Building 20.

“We’re in a situation that we kind of anticipated,” Ward said. “Because of that investment, we’re going to be struggling capital-wise. We take in about $2 million a year in tax revenue from the community. About $1 million of that is going to capital improvements. And, to my chagrin, the other $1 million is going toward interest on debt that we incurred from the waterfront property. If we don’t hit a home run on that waterfront property, we might be in dire straits.”