Matsuda: Washington’s Trade Legacy Depends on Port Industry Growth

Last week, the Puget Sound Business Journal published an opinion editorial discussing some of the serious challenges posed to one of Washington’s cornerstone industries, trade.

In the column, author David Matsuda, former maritime administrator under President Obama, reflects on the interconnected nature of Washington’s ports and shipyards and this vital industry that supports 1 in 3 jobs in the Evergreen state. The piece follows on his remarks made this January at the second annual Maritime Day in Olympia.

Matsuda notes, “In Washington specifically, ports and their infrastructure encompass a huge portion of the economic activities that are important to the Northwest economy, including trade and tourism. However, there are significant challenges we face both locally and nationally with aging American infrastructure.”

He goes on to discuss that while the federal side of this equation has been promoting infrastructure growth especially for freight transportation, there needs to be stronger support for privately funded port/supply chain infrastructure at the state level as this is where majority of partnerships will come to fruition.

Matsuda specifically cites infrastructure permitting as an area of uncertainty clouding the future of many billion dollar projects. He states, “…recent changes to Washington state infrastructure permitting rules have lengthened the process and created more uncertainty for potential investors…In Washington, port infrastructure projects take on a heightened awareness of potential economic opportunities and jobs that could be lost to competing ports in Canada if they are not built in a timely fashion.”

Washington’s trade sector is a business like any other. Therefore it is important to signal to investors and foreign buyers alike that we are open for business.

Washington needs the jobs and investment the maritime industry infrastructure will provide. Port expansions, and the jobs they create, are big opportunities that permitting challenges could stop dead in the water. And with our state so heavily dependent on trade, our economic future is indisputably tied to robust growth of trade infrastructure.

As Matsuda notes we cannot allow infrastructure – the foundation of trade – to degrade, particularly when billions of dollars in private financing is at stake.