Photo provided by the Port of Port Angeles.
An Interview with Karen Goschen, newly appointed Executive Director of the Port of Port Angeles
RM – Good morning Karen, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be Executive Director for the Port of Port Angeles?
KG – Over the years, I’ve worked in and out of management consulting gaining exposure to many industries and companies. In 1998, I moved to a CFO position with the American Humane Association, an animal and child welfare organization that does a lot of work on the link between violence to animals and violence to children and people. From there, I moved into the director of finance position for the city of Sequim, followed by a move to Port of Port Angeles as the director of finance in 2012. In December of 2014, I was promoted to deputy executive director where I became interim executive director after the former executive director retired in December 2015. The Port commissioners conducted a national search for an executive director utilizing an executive search firm, Jones Strategic. After an intense interview process with four candidates including myself, I was appointed Executive Director in July 2016.
RM – As the new Executive Director, what are your goals for the Port of Port Angeles?
KG – With almost 50% of our revenue tied to the cyclical logging industry, we need to grow other businesses and sources of revenue to even out the cycles. The timber industry remains a significant and viable industry with its revenue providing the Port with the means to build the terminals on the waterfront. The main goal of the port is to create jobs by providing infrastructure needed by industry. We need to diversify our business base and support more industries for our community. Port Angeles is a beautiful area with a clean environment and wonderful recreational opportunities all around us, which is attractive to people. But we need good jobs to support those who want to live here. We want to have a positive story to tell; so even though timber harvest has decreased significantly, this community is resilient and has found other ways to grow. The Port strives to develop a robust industrial job base while remaining environmentally responsible.
RM – Are there some key projects in the works to achieve this goal?
KG – When you look at trying to grow strategically, you want to look at the assets you have, what trends there are to take advantage of, and find the right combination of the two. The Marine Trades Industrial Park fits into this model. The data points show the marine trades industry as a growing sector worthy of investment and the buildout enhances the services we already offer. Right now the marine trades aspect is a small part of our overall portfolio, yet we think it has a very good opportunity to expand and become a larger part of the businesses we support.
On the airport side, we are aggressively pursuing various regional airlines to try to entice them to start new scheduled commercial service from Port Angeles to Seattle. Access to commercial air service will help the overall economy of Clallam County. Another major initiative for diversification is the new Composite Recycling Technology Center (see sidebar for details about CRTC)
RM – Can you expand on the Marine Trades Industrial Park plan?
KG – A key emphasis for the Port is environmental cleanup. In addition to our and other parties’ efforts on the Western Port Angeles Harbor Cleanup site, we spent three years cleaning up an old, no longer viable, mill site. This is where the new Marine Trades Industrial Park is planned. It’s exciting to see a vital piece of our waterfront get cleaned up and transition to what will become a vibrant part of our marine trades sector. With clean-up done, we are working with Reid Middleton on a conceptual design plan for the best layout for the site. Key to our planning is studying what will work in the long run for the community. Initially we will give our local businesses the opportunity to expand into the Park and if there is excess capacity, we will market the property to other marine trades customers.
RM – How do you see the Marine Trades Industrial Park integrating into existing operations in the overall Port Marine Trades Area?
KG – The Marine Trades Industrial Park allows for growth for our existing customers first, but also growth of new business as we recruit customers from the Puget Sound area. The Park is located adjacent to our travel lift pier which is a key asset for the marine trades sector. To facilitate increased capacity for our current customers, we are planning new wash down facilities and work pads next to our existing 500 ton travel lift pier.
RM – What are some of the challenges in developing the Marine Trades Industrial Park?
KG – One of our challenges is going to be parking because of the constrained space and traffic congestion. With growth comes more vehicle traffic. Marine Drive to the south is already a thoroughly busy road and it will be especially busy during log export cargo operations. In order to alleviate the bottle neck that occurs near the travel lift, it is critical to look at opportunities for the log export traffic to be rerouted. That will be a big challenge in developing this site.
I’d say the other challenge is funding. We will seek grant funding to help us provide common facilities to be used by the marine trades and make their work more efficient. We are going to start with the wash down facility and work pad but we would like to consider other types of multi-use facilities as there is some interest in having a multi-tenant building for smaller specialty vendors. We need to find the right combination of facilities so we can keep the cost structure for potential users at a level that’s affordable and enables them to grow.
RM – Now that you’ve done the clean-up, will permitting be easier?
KG – Yes. It’s only on the east-end of the site where we have a restrictive covenant. We didn’t have to excavate all the soil that was polluted or contaminated because it was at a low enough level, but certain procedures will have to be followed when the ground in that area is being disturbed.
RM – Is there anything else you would like to add?
KG – One of the key roles of the Port of Port Angeles is to provide infrastructure that lowers the costs and barriers of industry operating in Clallam County. Although we need to still operate in a financially sound manner, we want to be able to a make it attractive and feasible for businesses to grow here. In order to achieve this, it is critical for the Port to find and build the right projects at the right time. We believe the Marine Trades Industrial Park is one of these and the Composite Recycling Technology Center another. We are confident that these projects go hand-in-hand with existing industry and will enable the Port of Port Angeles to have a bright future.
RM – Thank you so much for speaking with us and we wish you and Port of Port Angeles all the best.
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