APRIL 3: To help control the spread of COVID-19, Port of Vancouver USA’s administrative office will be closed through April 24, 2020. Port terminal operations are not affected by this office closure. We will continue to provide updates as we adapt to this evolving situation. Click here to view our COVID-19 FAQ Response page.
The Port of Vancouver USA is a fascinating and complex place where trains whistle, cargo moves and work gets done, all day, every day. We get lots of questions about who we are, what we do and why we do it. We’ve developed a list of frequently asked questions to address some of the most common queries and help people better understand our world and our role in the community.
If your questions aren’t addressed here, or there’s more you’d like to talk with us about, please feel free to contact us at 360-693-3611 or firstname.lastname@example.org
We are an independent public agency, established in 1912, with a mission of providing economic benefit to our community through leadership, stewardship and partnership in marine, industrial and waterfront development.
We manage and develop over 1,600 acres of public property with the primary purpose of marine and industrial development. Port property is home to more than 50 businesses that employ about 4,000 people who generate about $3.8 billion in annual economic impact across the region.
The port was formed more than a century ago to ensure that prime industrial and marine property on the waterfront was retained for public economic benefit. Today, the port serves as landlord for more than 1,600 acres with tenants and customers that move more than 8 million metric tons of goods each year. In addition, the port serves as a critically important developer of marine, industrial and commercial property to generate additional economic activity for the public benefit.
Port customers and tenants handle a broad range of goods and cargoes. Our geographic location and infrastructure, aided by our unique confluence of river, rails and roads make the port particularly attractive for moving international goods. The Port of Vancouver is also the furthest inland deep-water port on the Columbia River, allowing ocean-going vessels to cost-effectively load and discharge their cargoes. Ten percent of the nation’s wheat harvest moves through the Port of Vancouver, and the port serves as a key West Coast point of entry for Subaru vehicles and wind energy components. The port also handles large volumes of steel and scrap metal, corn, soybeans, copper, fertilizers and petroleum products such as diesel and jet fuel.
We’re developing 15 acres of ready-to-build industrial land through our Centennial Industrial Park to support advanced manufacturing, warehousing, distribution and other industries. We are also redeveloping a 10-acre site we own on the Columbia River. Located at the site of the port’s original 1920s warehouse at Terminal 1, this waterfront destination will feature a hotel, offices, shopping, dining, a public marketplace and more.
From a global perspective, the Port of Vancouver is a link in one of the most efficient shipping connections between the Midcontinent and the Pacific Rim. Our deep-water inland port features four miles of waterfront, connections to all seven Class 1 railroads in North America and two interstates, and offers two of North America’s largest mobile harbor cranes. We have 800 acres of improved property that includes 2.5 million square feet of warehouse space. We are also actively seeking tenants for Terminal 5, 82 acres of rail-served property available for a new high-volume mineral bulk facility.
Our currently developed industrial properties are nearly completely leased, and global trade across our marine terminals is brisk and ever-growing. To create even more economic opportunities and jobs, we have been pursuing improvements to the flow of goods as well as the development of additional marine and industrial properties. Our current work involves improving hundreds of acres of industrial property for current and future development. We also are actively partnering and investing to achieve redevelopment goals for Vancouver’s downtown waterfront. These projects all have tremendous promise for generating economic benefit for our community and are only made possible through long-term planning and partnerships.
Definitely. As we pursue our century-old mission of providing economic benefit for the public, we build our business plans by studying marketplace opportunities in relation to our properties under development. As we seek a diversity of tenants and customers, we always examine their financial stability, investment commitment and responsible operation, as well as their past record and future plans for safety and environmental stewardship. Finally, we consider the timing and sequence of tenants relative to the port’s overall business and financial flow. Our intent is to achieve steadily improving economic benefit to our community while protecting tenants, neighbors and the environment.
The port certainly supports green energy and is considered among ports as one of the leaders in embracing green energy. The port benefits greatly from tenant and customer diversification. Virtually every company and industry has cyclical ups and downs. Our approach is to seek a diverse range of tenants and customers to help us deliver consistent economic impact. For example, we are proud of our leadership importing wind turbine components on behalf of the three largest manufacturers, but that industry has faced tremendous ups and downs due to the availability of government subsidies.
Yes. In a state where 40 percent of all jobs are trade related, the port sees opportunity for jobs and economic activity by serving as a link in the flow of goods. The port sees additional opportunity in addressing our region’s severe shortage of available land for industrial development. Currently, the port and its tenants employ 3,900 directly and more than 24,000 indirectly.
The port is a profitable organization, which is good news for local taxpayers. This means the income generated from sources like tenant leases and vessel fees more than covers operating costs such as salaries, rents, utilities and business services. The port also invests deeply in capital improvements, much like a family invests in improvements to its home. These capital improvements are paid partly from income the port generates, and they also are paid by tenants and customers through fees, port district residents through taxes, and state and federal government agencies through competitive grant programs. These investments help make it possible for the port to deliver greater economic impact to the community for years to come.
The port considers itself part of the community and routinely welcomes input and suggestions from neighbors regarding its work and projects. Members of the public can attend our twice-monthly commission meetings to provide public comment and can provide both email and written correspondence to staff and commissioners. There are opportunities to interact with staff and the commissioners at public tours offered each summer as well as through the port lecture series offered each spring. The port helps sponsor events in the community by partnering with organizations such as the Vancouver Downtown Association and Columbia Springs; as well as staffing tents and tables at events such as National Night Out and Booville with the Parks Foundation of Clark County. The port also employs a full-time community relations manager who attends neighborhood meetings and can be requested to give a presentation about the port to community groups and others wanting to learn more about the port. The port recognizes that community input has been extremely helpful in improving traffic flow, abating noise, creating bike and pedestrian paths, and in sharing neighborhood priorities. The port also works with advisory committees to help shape our projects – such as the Terminal 1 Advisory Committee. In addition, our tenants and customers share our sense of neighborhood responsibility and actively support schools and community activities and by volunteering.
Please call the port’s general phone number, 360-693-3611, which is staffed during normal business hours and managed by security personnel at other times. We also welcome inquiries or comments at email@example.com, which is monitored daily and comments are routed to the appropriate person or organization for response.
The port is governed by a three-person board of commissioners, whose members are elected to six-year staggered terms. Commissioners hold official public meetings twice a month, and participate in other meetings and activities in between. Generally speaking, they dedicate about 20-40 hours a week to port business.
Commissioners are paid a $800 monthly stipend and $128 per day for port-related meetings, up to 120 meetings per year. They are also eligible for health benefits and can submit expenses for reimbursement. The port has a program similar to other ports where commissioners are eligible for additional compensation as the port meets certain business growth milestones and demands on the commissioners’ time, talents and expertise increase accordingly. The adjustment to port commissioner compensation is set per RCW 53.12.260.
Commissioners hire a CEO who is charged with overseeing port operations and carrying out policies. In total, the port has about 120 direct staff, about half of which are focused on security and maintenance. The other half is focused on administration, finance, human resources, real estate, contracts, operations, sales and marketing.
The port receives a portion of property taxes paid by property owners within the port district, which covers the greater Vancouver area. For example, a property valued at $350,000 in 2018 would be assessed about $85 annually. The total amount collected annually is approximately $10 million. These funds are used exclusively for payment of debt service, environmental remediation and capital projects, such as rail and dock improvements. No tax dollars are used to pay staff salaries or salaries and expenses associated with our Board of Commissioners.
Property owners in the port district invest in the port through an annual property tax levy. In other words, they invest in an economic engine that produces local jobs, stimulates local business activity, and generates taxes that support schools, roads and emergency services. The port and its tenants directly employ 3,900 people and indirectly employ another 24,000 people who generate about $3.8 billion in economic activity. This generates about $386 million in local spending on housing, food, goods and services. Combined, the port and its tenants pay more than $132 million annually in state and local taxes.
Yes. Compared to privately-owned properties, citizens have far more transparency and input into the port’s governance, decision-making, finances and operations. As an independent public agency, our structure and operations require it. The port is governed by three elected commissioners who live in the port district. We welcome and actively seek public input, beginning with hosting public comment periods at each of the port’s twice-monthly meetings, and by making port representatives available for group tours and special meetings. We also reach out to neighbors to gain input and keep them apprised of port developments by attending meetings, giving presentations and distributing updates. Ultimately, the port considers itself part of the neighborhood and strives to operate as a good neighbor.
That idea surfaces regularly and is often discussed by our commission, each commissioner supports efforts to limit or reduce the tax burden on our citizens. However, the port currently relies heavily upon property tax proceeds to leverage other investments to improve and develop port property. Meanwhile, the public benefits both from the economic impact generated through the port, and from the ability to choose the individuals who serve on the port’s board of commissioners and establish port policy.
Washington state port districts are required by RCW 53.20 to have an official “Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements and Industrial Development” to communicate with the public about management of port assets. Usually referred to as “the comp scheme,” it’s essentially a record of how the port is managing public land, facilities and infrastructure. Whenever there are changes to the comp scheme, the port must hold a public meeting and the Board of Commissioners must approve the changes. Sometimes, comp scheme changes are also required to go through processes such as the State Environmental Policy Act to identify potential environmental impacts and necessary mitigation.
By volume, our largest tenant is United Grain Corporation, which annually exports 10 percent of America’s wheat harvest to markets abroad. The port also serves as a primary port of entry for steel, Subaru vehicles and wind energy components.
As a West Coast, deep-water port with access to rail and road, we are ideally situated to trade with countries along the Pacific Rim. We also do business in many other parts of the world, including Europe, Australia and South America.
Yes. Hazardous products have been moving safely through the port for many years. Examples include gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, propane, butane, methanol, caustic soda and biofuels. These products are part of a diverse mix of cargoes and are handled by port tenants Andeavor, NuStar Energy and NGL Supply Company.
As a matter of practice, we perform a competitive market analysis of each leased property. Features and amenities of each site are taken into consideration as part of the market analysis. By state law, the port must receive fair market value for its property, protecting both taxpayers and private business interests in our community.
The port has a comprehensive Tenant Environmental Management Program, which includes pre-lease screening of potential tenants and their practices, periodic on-site reviews of tenant environmental protection practices, outreach and communication with tenants, and sharing best management practices used by other port tenants.
Careful consideration is given to environmental, safety and business factors when determining what cargoes move through the port. Each potential cargo is thoroughly analyzed by staff with expertise in safety, economics and environmental protection. All leases, which are approved by the Board of Commissioners, take these factors into account and require compliance with all laws and port standards.
Tenants pay annual building and ground lease rates and rail fees. Marine customers pay dockage, wharfage, service & facilities, storage and terminal handling fees for products moved through the port.
About one vessel a day or about 400 a year load or unload cargo at the port. Approximately 8 million metric tons of cargo is handled each year.
The port has more than 50 tenants across a broad range of industries. Combined, the port and its tenants employ more than 3,900 people, making the port the second-largest employee base in Clark County, next to Peace Health. An additional 24,000 jobs are indirectly created by the port’s $3.8 billion annual economic activity.