Birch Bay group questions job numbers from Gateway Pacific Terminal

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 22, 2013 

Recently, SSA Marine, the company wanting to build and run the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, ran an advertisement in our local newspapers, entitled, "Report to the Community." Save Birch Bay believes the ad contained many misleading and deceptive statements.

SSA Marine's ad says, "Number of local jobs generated in region's economy during construction: 4,430." This sentence uses the word "local" jobs and then uses the words "generated in region's economy" - so will these jobs be local or regional? The Gateway Pacific Terminal permit application and project information document states the actual estimated number of direct construction jobs would be 1,100. In claiming there will be 4,430 jobs, SSA must be adding construction job numbers for other proposed northwest coal terminals because 1,100 Gateway construction jobs plus 1,500 "induced and indirect" (possible) jobs only totals 2,600. That leaves a difference of 1,830 jobs that are not related to the Gateway construction site, yet SSA Marine's ad is specifically for Gateway Pacific Terminal, not all regional coal terminals.

SSA Marine's ad says, "Number of local jobs generated in region's economy, once GPT is fully operational: 1,250." There's that word "local" again, followed by "generated in the region's economy. The project document states the actual estimated number of terminal shift workers will be 213 shift jobs at full build-out of the terminal by 2026, and 44 additional workers (administrative staff) will be employed in terminal jobs by 2026. That makes a total of 257 local terminal jobs by 2026, not 1,250 as claimed in the ad.

The ad says the "Average annual salary of direct terminal employee: $75,000." In the planning document there is no mention of any terminal jobs or jobs resulting from the terminal that show a wage above the stated $36,000 average. Are we to trust that the advertised average $75,000 terminal employee salary is real when SSA Marine did not put that salary estimate in their planning document? It states that the 44 administrative staff terminal jobs would earn an average wage of $36,000 yearly. SSA Marine consultant Craig Cole has been telling our community that the terminal would employ people in full-time jobs paying over $95,000 yearly. Cole is quoted in May 2012 by Linda Twitchell of the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County who wrote, "Craig Cole, a consultant representing Gateway, confirms an update of the figures, released Oct. 27, shows that at full capacity the completed project will employ 430 people in full-time jobs paying $95,000 or more per year (longshoremen, onsite rail operators, tug operators, pilots and the like)." In reality, in the planning document the estimated average wage for longshoremen, BNSF rail workers, tug operators, pilots and marine service workers is $36,000. So, why has the over $90,000 salary diminished to $75,000 in the ad, and more importantly, why is this touted wage not mentioned in the planning document, which only uses the $36,000 average figure for any type terminal job?

SSA Marine's ad says, "State and local taxes generated by construction: $92 million." The planning document states, "State and local taxes and fees associated with construction-related business revenue and direct, indirect, and induced employment are estimated to total approximately $71 million over four-year construction term." So, is it $71 million as stated in the document, or $92 million SSA Marine claims in its advertisement? It's important to note the $71 million state and local taxes number was derived not solely from the direct construction job number estimate of 1,100, but also adds SSA Marine's "indirect and induced" job number of 1,500 jobs to the 1,100 number.

The ad says, "Construction plus 10 years of operation will bring $1.8 billion in economic benefits to the community." The planning document says Gateway Pacfic Terminal "Will generate approximately $1.4 billion in revenue for businesses providing handling, vessel, and other services to the terminal." Neither the wording, nor the numbers, match up. First, the ad says $1.8 billion in "economic benefits" (whatever that means) while the planning document uses the number $1.4 billion. In the ad it appears that SSA Marine is taking the $1.4 billion revenue generated for businesses, then adding the approximate $400-$411 million in wages that the planning document says will be generated by the terminal construction. Again, remember those business and construction wage revenues likely include SSA Marine's predicted "indirect and induced" jobs. We believe it's deceptive for SSA Marine to describe the $1.8 million number as "economic benefits to the community" when the planning document specifically states it's estimated Gateway Pacific Terminal would generate 1.4 billion in revenue for business.

The number of "induced and indirect" jobs and resulting sum were corrected June 24, 2013.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandy Robson is communications director for Save Birch Bay, a group of about 30 residents who meet monthly and are dedicated to educating Birch Bay residents and the community about the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal. Meetings are held the second Wednesay of the month and are open to the public. For more information about the group, email savebirchbay@yahoo.com.

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