Working Waterfronts Coalition of Whatcom County Announces Its Launch
by Jim Kyle and Deb Granger
Jim Kyle is a long-time commercial fisherman and Whatcom County resident. He served as interim chairman of the Working Waterfront Coalition during 2014, its inaugural year. Debbie Granger, a long-time Whatcom County resident, has extensive experience in commercial fishing with PR/marketing work in the fisheries and aquaculture industries.
As Whatcom County residents savor the bounty of the past summer’s harvest and prepare for winter, we pause to give thanks for our abundant natural resources, including the Salish Sea and miles of productive, sublime marine shorelines. These precious maritime resources and the harbors accessing them demand our stewardship if we are to sustain the environmental health and economic vitality of our waterfronts.
The average county resident, however, probably knows very little about the economic benefits of our marine waters. Those benefits, locally and statewide, are immense. The Washington State Maritime Cluster Economic Impact Study, released in November 2013, revealed that the entire state maritime sector supports 148,000 jobs and contributes $30 billion to Washington’s economy. Locally, preliminary figures from a waterfront study show 2,600 direct marine sector jobs that create up to 3,400 “secondary impacts.”
Our region’s maritime industry is rooted in the historic health of our natural resources, our productive workforce, our strategic location and excellent transportation connections that provide efficient access to global markets. Statewide, maritime activity continues to grow an average of 6.4 percent a year, utilizes the latest technologies and provides high-paying jobs. Consider: the average pay for a job in Washington is $52,000, while maritime workers are paid an average of $70,800 — totaling over $4 billion in payroll in 2012. During a time of declining middle class income, the maritime sector of our county and state provides an essential counterbalance.
Formed in early 2014, the Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County — a group of water-related businesses — works to promote the vitality and economic benefits of our working waterfronts for the people of Whatcom County. Members revere and protect the source of our livelihood — the Salish Sea and coastal North America. We live and work on these waters and shores or supply goods or services for those who do. We depend on each other for our very existence. Those who go to sea return to safe harbors in Bellingham and Blaine, vendors and tradesmen and shipyards eager to repair the boats, buyers ready to process the catch and uncongested roads and an airport to transport products and guests.
In the face of economic and environmental challenges, members of the coalition realize that we need to work collaboratively to:
Showcase our maritime and fishing sector of our economy as a vital and contributing component of Whatcom County,
Ensure that our harbors continue to support a thriving maritime sector, and
Protect the cultural and economic benefits for all county citizens.
In partnership with the Port of Bellingham, Lummi Nation, and other government entities, we endeavor to preserve our maritime infrastructure for future generations. Specific activities include co-sponsoring with the Whatcom Commercial Fishermen’s Association a study, mentioned above, conducted by Hart Hodges of WWU of the “Economic Impact of the Maritime Cluster” specific to Whatcom County. Students and Faculty in the Economics Department of WWU have been collecting data, interviewing businesses, and assembling the report. Results will be released soon.
Further, the Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County has developed a clear foundational and organizational structure complete with mission/goals, bylawsand a newly elected board of directors, and soon will select the executive officers. Key committees — Executive Committee, Public Relations/Communications, and Government Relations — comprise the ‘nitty-gritty’ operations of the coalition.
As we move forward to preserve and enhance our marine resources and infrastructure, we are pleased to announce the launch of the Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County. We look forward to giving voice to those whose livelihood depends on a healthy marine environment and efficient harbors. Stay tuned for more information about this important maritime sector of Whatcom County’s economy!