VBJ endorsement: Both candidates want to spur jobs, economic development

Not so long ago, the elections for the Port of Vancouver Commissioner positions were sort of mundane, humdrum, bottom-of-the-ballot elections. This is not the case anymore. The Port’s decision to enter into a lease agreement for Vancouver Energy – a joint venture of Tesoro Corp. (now Andeavor) and Savage Companies – to build an oil terminal at the Port changed the dynamic and has kept the Port and the proposed terminal in the news for the last several years.

The Port’s stated mission is: “To provide economic benefit to our community through leadership, stewardship and partnership in marine, industrial and waterfront development.” Vancouver and Southwest Washington has been a “Port Town” since the days of the Hudson Bay Company. The railroad came to Vancouver around 1908 and has been here ever since. Today, hundreds of millions of dollars travel thought the Port via trucks, rail and ships every year. The Port of Vancouver has evolved into a major economic engine for Southwest Washington. It is one of the largest employers in the region and is responsible for more than 17,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Thus, the economic activity of the Port and the course the Port will take is an integral part of our landscape, not just its presence on the banks of the Columbia River, but its overall effect on our economy. Determining the best course for the Port to follow in its business decisions and development is thus critical to the economy of the entire region.

On our pages today you’ll find interviews with the two candidates, Don Orange and Kris Greene, who are running for the position being vacated by Commissioner Brian Wolfe. After reviewing their responses and other information available regarding the two candidates, the Vancouver Business Journal has decided that the best candidate for the position, the one who will best help to guide the port on its mission, is Kris Greene.

Both Greene and Orange have been involved in business and the business community here in Clark County for many years. And while they both share the desire to bring economic development and family-wage jobs to the Port and the Vancouver area in a safe and efficient manner, we endorse Greene because he seems to have more concrete, tangible plans and ideas for the Port.

While the proposed oil terminal is an important ongoing issue, it is most certainly not the only issue that the Port commissioners need to address. We agree with the stance that Greene has taken, that the process that the state is currently going through to address whether or not the proposed terminal is safe – both environmentally and for the community – should be carried out. Greene has said if EFSEC (the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council) determines that the oil terminal is unsafe, or if they determine it is indeed safe and can be built, he will accept either outcome.

One oil terminal issue that hasn’t been addressed is the very high probability that the Port will wind up in expensive and lengthy litigation if the Port votes to cancel the lease agreement prior to the state taking action. According to former Port Executive Todd Coleman, in his opinion, the decision as to whether the oil terminal is built at the Port will ultimately be decided by the Courts. Regardless of where EFSEC comes down or what the governor decides, the “losing” party in the decision will sue.

Nor has much been said about the possible effect on the recruitment of other major tenants to the port if the port terminates the lease.

If the Port does indeed decide at some point to terminate the lease, Greene has already started the process of looking into other ways the Port could make up for that lost revenue and lost jobs. He has talked with several other tenants down at the Port who are interested in expanding and could utilize the space if the lease with Vancouver Energy is terminated.

Looking at the bigger picture, Greene has several ideas and plans formulated for the Port that don’t only revolve around the proposed terminal. If elected, Greene has said he will aim to focus on a multitude of issues at the Port, including looking at the Port’s budget to make sure they are being good stewards of their money, looking at educational opportunities at the Port and more.

Greene also said he would be adamant about the Port’s Strategic Plan being looked at and updated at least once a year.

While both candidates indicate that they will strive for the same things – to bring jobs, revenue and economic development to the Port and the Vancouver area – we believe that Greene has the right innovative ideas and drive to get things done.