Leveraging the rapid growth of King County into tourism and infrastructure benefits for the smaller cities of the Eastside was an important topic discussed by Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman at the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Feb. 22.
Bowman, who has been on the commission for four years, spoke to representatives of Valley businesses and city governments about how the Port of Seattle is addressing the rapid growth it is experiencing, and how it can support the Eastside cities.
“The Port of Seattle really should be called the Port of King County because a lot of people don’t know the boundaries are actually all of King County,” she said.
In the past five years, the port has seen rapid growth in both the sea ports and SeaTac Airport. SeaTac has become the ninth busiest airport in the country, she said, and because it is geographically constrained from expanding due to the adjacent freeway, wetlands, and cemetery, the port must do more to improve the facilities already there.
Outlining the three big projects the airport is working on, Bowman talked about the approximately $800 million reconstruction of the international arrivals facility, the expansion of the North terminal, and the $400 million reworking of the baggage conveyor system.
She explained that the Port of Seattle is becoming more invested in Washington tourism and how local businesses, like farmers, are benefiting.
“Every time a cruise ship docks at the Port of Seattle it generates $2.5 million in local sales tax revenue… I love that figure because it’s people who come in, spend their money and then they leave,” Bowman said. “The Ruby Princess, which is a Holland-America vessel, each week these are the provisions they require: 23,000 eggs, 16,000 pounds of seafood, and 147,550 pounds of produce. Every single week, all of these are provisions from local businesses in Washington State.”
As part of the port’s investment in tourism and bringing the visitors to Washington out to the Valley, the board of commissioners put together an economic development grant program for King County cities to promote tourism. Snoqualmie received $13,000, which was put into Savor Snoqualmie, an organization designed to promote Valley cities, farmers, arts and events. North Bend was given $6,400 to develop a series of videos to promote outdoor recreation and tourism-related videos.
Bowman took the time to answer questions from Valley business owners. Tom Hawley of Mountain View Promotions, asked Bowman about the port being affected by the new presidential administration’s stance against trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
“TPP, the U.S. is no longer pursuing that with this administration. The changes that are being proposed to NAFTA have a significant impact,” Bowman said. “Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the country. I’m very cognizant of our cherry farmers, apple farmer, hay farmers… We plan to be a lead in the country in pushing for open borders and more trade, because that’s what we do.”
Kimberlea Miller of Wildflower Wine Shop asked how businesses will draw all of the people coming into the Port of Seattle out to the Valley. Bowman said the port has been doing more to get visitors to plan ahead and schedule time to travel in the state in conjunction with increased marketing efforts from Valley groups like Savor Snoqualmie.
“We started a program with the cruise companies called Cruise and Stay … trying to get the passengers as they are booking their cruises to plan a day ahead at the start of the trip or at the end of their trip,” she said. “We need to be talking to the travel agents and getting it on their radar. Come to the Snoqualmie Valley, take the railroad, come to Snoqualmie Falls, go wine tasting. We’ve got to get it on the front end and that’s what we are working on.”
Bowman also said that since the state closed its tourism office in 2011, the Port of Seattle has been a prominent financial contributor to the Washington State Tourism Alliance, the only entity left in the state advocating for tourism. The Port of Seattle has funded the program with $250,000 for the past seven years.