Port’s Annual Strategy Session Emphasizes Leadership, Goals, and “Playing the Long Game”

In mid-November last year, the Port of Ridgefield held an all-day strategy session to line out projects and budgets for 2020 and beyond – the typical kind of planning one would expect for a development agency. But as a community-owned investment trust, the port is more than a development agency, so something more happens at APEX – the port’s name for the session, which just celebrated its 21st year. (See Fun Fact).

Here, side-by-side with port commissioners, staff, and port advisors are non-port folks. This year they included City of Ridgefield Councilor Sandra Day; Rob Aichele and Dana Ziemer, city councilor-elects, and Judy Hinz, president of Ridgefield Main Street. These business leaders and any citizen who wishes to attend, learn, engage and provide input on a host of issues facing the port and the community.

The job at hand for the day is to put the port’s business challenges, investment opportunities, higher-level policy thinking, operational processes and financial intricacies into full context so as to assess how the various port projects come together to move toward a shared community vision.

Those interested enough to spend a full day learning about how the port works gain an understanding of the mission and community values that direct its activities.

Port of Ridgefield CEO Brent Grening believes that having city representatives and others involved in the port’s annual planning process builds understanding, trust and the relationships necessary to bring long-term projects like rail overpasses, broadband and supermarkets to Ridgefield.

“We do hard projects for community benefit that others can’t or won’t do,” said Grening. “To be a great community, our leaders must work together, because when our institutions are aligned, we can do more, better and faster.”

City of Ridgefield Councilor-Elect Rob Aichele was in attendance for the full APEX session in November. He found the depth of information presented to be valuable as he prepares to don the mantle of City Councilor this year.

“I enjoyed the APEX meeting. I learned so much about the port,” said Aichele. “Now I better understand how and why its decisions are made.”

Judy Hinz, Ridgefield Main Street president, also participated at APEX, and shared her thoughts on what she gained from the day.

“APEX was an adventure I didn’t anticipate,” Hinz said. “It was an immersion into the infrastructure, some history, and the ‘where do we go from here’ of our port. The port is about vision, long-term investments and returns, while protecting the assets of our community.”

At the meeting, Port Commission Chairman Scott Hughes cited two 20-year port projects coming to completion – the Ridgefield waterfront clean-up and the Pioneer Street Rail Overpass. He noted that most people don’t know how long some of the port’s projects can take from vision to fruition.

“We’re working on things today that in many cases won’t affect us,” Hughes said. “They’re for our children and grandchildren.”

And while the group spent time reviewing goals for 2020 and the next several years that include industrial building development, Grening pointed out that the individual projects are part of an overall strategy that maximizes the port’s ability to help the long term economic health and livability of the community.

“Everything we do – such as our support of advanced applied manufacturing training, waterfront clean-up, and our investment in dark fiber is done to position the Discovery Corridor to reach its highest potential for the good of our businesses and citizens,” Grening said. “We’re playing the long game – working with urgency and investing with patience is a hallmark of port projects.”

FUN FACT: Why is it called APEX? Longtime and greatly respected Ridgefield resident and Port Commissioner Roy Randel believed it was more appropriate to call the planning session by a name that implied reaching and stretching to achieve a difficult goal – as in climbing to the apex of a mountain. “We don’t retreat, we move forward!” was his motto. So, at the port we APEX.