Election View: Bell brings clean-up expertise, desire for working waterfront

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 29, 2013 

We have an opportunity at the Port of Bellingham to leave a legacy that will make future generations proud. That excites and energizes me! My vision includes the cleanest possible waterfront, the creation of more family wage jobs, increased access through our transportation infrastructure and finally, after four years of instability, this commission needs to bring stability to the port administration.

I feel that my experience and talents have uniquely prepared me for this position.

As the owner of Best Recycling Inc (bestrecycling.com), a waste, recycling and clean-up company, I have operated four recycling plants in three states and Canada. The largest facility was located in Vancouver, B.C. We shipped commodities to mills throughout the continental U.S. and to markets all over the globe.

My company has become a leader in solving difficult problems. We purchased these recycling facilities from Weyerhaeuser and Ideal Paper Company at a time when they were losing money. We then turned them into profitable operations.

In 2002 I sold these facilities and transitioned my business into what it is today. We are now known for moving commodities and performing contaminated spill cleanup in some very remote parts of the world. We have enjoyed a 20-year relationship with the U.S. Antarctic program. As a part of this project my crew collects, segregates and prepares for transport: hazardous wastes, solid wastes, recyclable materials and items that can be sold at auction or reused. We ship the material back to Port Hueneme, Calif., for its final disposition. We just renewed our contract with the Antarctic program through 2024.

We recently completed a high-profile cleanup of contaminated property for a major oil company in the northern-most part of the Yukon Territory in Canada. The cleanup required special equipment that was manufactured here for assembly on site. The only access to the spill was by air. My company has performed similar activities in remote parts of Greenland and Alaska (see my website for more details). I know from experience what needs to be done to clean up contaminated properties like the ones on our waterfront.

My business has us working and shipping to ports in Washington, California, Louisiana, New York, New Zealand, Chile and China. I've seen the best of the best and I've seen mediocre. It is my vision to make the Port of Bellingham the best of the best.

This vision includes a real working waterfront! It includes real family wage jobs! A waterfront like ours is both rare and unique. We must take the necessary steps to preserve the opportunities for industry that the GP property brings to the table. I have received the endorsement of the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union because they, too, have this vision. The potential for jobs on our waterfront surpasses the potential anywhere else in the county.

Our airport is perfectly positioned to make Whatcom County accessible to more places than ever before. It would be my vision to bring in more carriers so that we could gain access to more places. We need to supplement the base that Alaska and Allegiant airlines have given us so we can see more direct flights to more key cities. We need access to innovators from across the country to provide labor to our high-tech industries and tourists to feed the local economy.

The parking at the airport is in need of capital investment. I envision a parking garage at the airport and a cooperative relationship with outside vendors to fill in the gaps where necessary.

It is my belief that the port should not compete with the private sector. Real estate is one area where the current port has become a bit too aggressive. We should only own real estate for purposes of enhancing port operations, not for investment purposes!

I would invest in our current customer base first. They are in need of capital for infrastructure repairs. They should be our first priority. Future tenants will judge us by the way we treat our current customer base.

My priorities are firmly planted in my faith in God, my wife of 20 years and our children.

For more information go to my Facebook page, KenBellForPort, or my website, kenforport.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ken Bell is the challenger for 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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