As I look back on the last year serving as President of the Seattle Port Commission, I feel fortunate in having the privilege – and, yes, sometimes the challenge – of leading the Commission in a year that saw a lot changes.
On the whole, the Port of Seattle is moving forward toward achieving its goals of creating economic vitality in our community, protecting the environment and building a great airport and seaport. The state of the Port is sound, not just financially, but as an engine of opportunity for every citizen.
Thank you to all of my fellow commissioners. We are a team, the strongest in years. We welcomed Fred Felleman to the Commission last year, and he’s brought a lot of energy and commitment to everything the Port does.
And thanks to CEO Ted Fick and our dedicated team of professionals at the Port, who work hard every day to make our Century Agenda goals a reality. They don’t often get the credit they deserve, but their hard work on behalf of our community is very much recognized and appreciated by the Commission.
Here are some of the highlights of 2016:
• We began work in earnest on major capital improvements at Sea-Tac Airport, including the new International Arrivals Facility and the North Satellite renovation and expansion project. In total, the Commission approved moving forward on over $2 billion in investments in the future of the airport. As we are the nation’s 10th busiest airport and the fastest growing large airport in the country for three years in a row, it’s imperative we build for the future.
• We’ve made great progress in developing our road map for the future, our Sustainable Airport Master Plan. I’m particularly proud of the work we’ve done to engage the community through a series of Commission roundtables. Together with panels consisting variously of airport and airline professionals, environmental leaders, airport community businesses and local elected officials, we looked at best practices for airport growth, as well as began drilling down on environmental and transportation issues that are critical to address as the airport grows.
• After a lot of study and input from the public and industry, we’re giving the public more choices than ever to get to the airport. We approved a one-year pilot program with ride-sharing Uber, Lyft and Wingz, and those services have seen amazing growth. We approved a new agreement for on-demand taxi services that ensures outstanding service for the customer while also requiring labor harmony between drivers and management.
• We weatherized the walk from the airport terminal to the SeaTac Light Rail station and approved plans to make access to the rail station easier.
Cruise and Fishing
• We saw close to a million cruise passengers pass through our two cruise terminals last summer on their way to Alaska, a record number. And we began a project to expand our Bell Harbor Cruise Terminal to handle Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest ships. Every time a cruise ship leaves from the Port of Seattle it brings in close to $2.5 million into our local economy.
• We completed a major update for the Fishermen’s Terminal strategic plan. We developed this in close partnership with fishing interests at the terminal, and throughout the community. We want create new opportunities for the public to see and hear the fishing industry up close. And we want to upgrade the facilities to better support our local maritime cluster by creating new storage and industrial activity at the terminal.
Northwest Seaport Alliance/Maritime Cargo
• We completed the first full year of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, our partnership with the Port of Tacoma to jointly operate our seaport cargo terminals, and made great strides in integrating management, marketing, planning and other operational aspects with respect to the two ports’ cargo and container businesses.
• In partnership with the Northwest Seaport Alliance, we’re moving forward with the permitting and design to bring Terminal 5 back into service as one of the region’s biggest and most advanced container terminals. It will be start of the art in handling cargo, as well as a great neighbor for West Seattle in handling air emissions and noise.
Community and the Environment
• The Commission launched two new policy committees, Energy and Sustainability, and Projects and Procurement. The energy committee was created to guide the port’s energy use and to address greenhouse gas reduction, and we look forward to seeing recommendations soon. The procurement committee successfully resolved some tough issues in developing new policies around construction labor agreements and improve minority and small business contracting.
• We’re also doing our part to address the critical shortage of skilled workers in the maritime and industrial fields, and to help airport workers move up in the air travel industry. We’re investing in workforce education in local schools. In 2016, we tripled the number of interns to more than 100.
• We launched two new initiatives to spur economic development locally and around the state: A grant program to promote tourism around Washington State and a grant program to support local economic development efforts in 38 King County cities.
• We are all proud of our environmental achievements last year. We became the first US airport to be named Salmon Safe. We moved forward on Duwamish River cleanup and developed new public access along the river. And we are breaking new ground in planning for the development of infrastructure to supply biofuels for aircraft at Sea-Tac Airport. Using biofuels will help the community breathe easier and reduce our use of fossil fuels.
• 2016 also saw great progress in our relations with the City of Seattle. After the City Council rejected the flawed proposal to build a sports arena in SODO, we’re very pleased the city is now investigating improvements to KeyArena. We stand ready to assist that effort. We traveled to Hamburg – a city similar to Seattle with a strong, historic port and aviation cluster – with a number of Seattle City Council members, which gave us the opportunity to see the potential for a better working relationship between the Port and the city. We will be so much more successful if we work in partnership.
Looking back on 2016, it’s been a busy year but one in which we accomplished a lot in keeping the Port a continued, strong economic engine for our community. Working together, we can look forward to even more success in 2017.