Election View: Port commissioner wants continued growth in Whatcom businesses

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 23, 2013 

I grew up in Lewis County, just three hours south of here. I learned how to work starting at age 11 on a family farm, I learned how to lead as a war veteran in the Marine Corps and I've dedicated my life to public service. It's been an honor to serve as your port commissioner these past four years.

Port commission is a different kind of elected position. Ports don't regulate your property or make the rules you have to follow, but we do connect with you at waterfront parks, when you put your boat in the water, if you have a small business or need an airport. With over $380 million of public property managed by your port from Sumas to Fairhaven, understanding the port's role in your life, it's role in our economy and it's role in the region is the most important job of a port commissioner. The port does not create jobs, it supports the people who do.

I spent an entire year making sure that I had the right skills and was ready for the job before I ever asked people to put me in office for my first term. Because your port manages more types of assets than most other U.S. ports, it's not the kind of job a person just decides to do. It's the type of job that requires a huge amount of time and effort, the kind of effort I dedicated myself to four years ago and the kind I've given you since.

Your port has done well managing marinas, the airport and real estate. But our future is now, our recession is slowly fading behind us, it's time to rebuild our working waterfronts and invest in infrastructure. Most of what I do as a commissioner isn't flashy but a failing bulkhead, a ramp that is worn out or an outdated crane can cripple commerce and the port is tasked with managing those public assets, especially on our waterfronts, that are critical to our economy.

In my first term I've brought a new perspective and I push our staff to embrace what makes ports successful - nimble, effective and aggressive adherence to preparing for the future. Such as investing in projects like our first LEED Gold-certified building. That building, near the Fairhaven Shipyard, not only represents our first foray into the future of commercial building ownership but it returns your money at greater than 4 percent from a tenant that understands business, our community and brought more than 30 new jobs here.

We have started new programs in our economic development division with staff developing linkages between businesses we already have in the county and looking for where holes may be, this will ultimately identify better ways to attract industries that can further diversify our economy.

We have strengthened our real estate ties to the private sector with better personal interaction and a new website called Whatcom Prospector (whatcomprospector.com) where any broker or similar real estate entity can list commercial property at no cost.

We have invested in our commercial fishing industry by promoting every marine trades business in the county. This program supports our commercial fishermen as well as marine trades workers so that people from Alaska to California know we are, once again, serious about marine trades here. This past year we have seen new commercial boats in our harbors and I want to see more next year.

We no longer fund an outside agency to find business for the shipping terminal, we send our own people to beat the bushes from here to the Gulf Coast and beyond. We haven't found the right fit yet but we are dedicated to putting your shipping terminal back in full-time use.

There are many more things we have begun, completed or still have to do. My commitment to you and every citizen of this county is to continue working hard, holding myself and the port to a high standard and focusing your tax dollars only on those things best aligned with our mission.

Four years ago you took a chance on me. I hope that I've proven myself since then and that I've earned your vote in November.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike McAuley is the incumbent Port of Bellingham District 2 commissioner. Vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed Oct. 19 and the general election is Nov. 5.

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