The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
The Port of Sunnyside is holding a party this Thursday to celebrate reaching the half century mark. The Port was created in 1964 to boost the Lower Yakima Valley's chances and options for development. The Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce jumpstarted the Port's creation and intially sought to bring other lower valley cities into the district. Eventually the other communities bowed out and a district was formed that includes Sunnyside and the surrounding area.
Jay Hester, the Port's Executive Director, said the district has made a big difference. "We built a wastewater treatment plant to support value added agriculture. This project has supported the growth of companies like Johnson Foods, Seneca (formerly Independent Foods), and Darigold." Hester also said the Port District helped put Sunnyside on the map - it became a cornerstone and catalyst for new development.
The Port has certainly supported local industry growth and It has helped Sunnyside attract new employers like Darigold, Kennewick Irrigation, and DRR Fruit Products. The Port has also primed over 400 acres of industrial property for development.
While the Port has enjoyed many successes its job is far from finished. Recruiting new industry is still a challenge. "Our properties, by themselves, will not land new companies," Hester explained. "We have realized that other community variables like workforce quality and utility costs are often more important than the availability and cost of land". Hester said the Port still works to recruit new industry but it is also equally wedded to help existing businesses grow. On that level he sees untapped potential with the local wine industry. There are a lot of wineries in the Lower Valley but only one of them is in Sunnyside.
Ultimately the Port is trying to turn its property assets into new development and jobs. They have done a good job of boosting economic activity so far and our hats are off to the Port for reaching a special milestone and making a difference within the Yakima Valley.