Yes, it’s a bit of an oddity, but Port of Ridgefield, unlike many other ports, has no marine terminal or airport. Thus, the mandate handed to the port when it was established in 1940 was to increase economic development opportunities within the City of Ridgefield and surrounding area, AKA the Discovery Corridor. Putting port-owned land to business use to provide jobs was then the port’s only means to this end game. That focus area still exists today, but modern thinking about the need for a healthy environment, a rapidly changing business climate brought on by technological advances, limited broadband capacity in the region and an exponential influx of people from the Portland-Metro area to the Discovery Corridor have moved the port to expand its role over the years.
“Today,” says Port Commission Chair Scott Hughes,” we see ourselves as a community port.”
To Hughes and his fellow commissioners, being a community port means tackling big jobs for community benefit – even if the work falls outside the realm of land development.
“There are things we’ve worked on because of community need, and the port is the right entity to do these long-term, capital-intense projects,” Hughes says. “No other municipal agency is prepared to take on these kinds of projects.”
Examples are the Pioneer Street Rail Overpass project, ongoing efforts to get the area’s broadband speed, capacity, and cost on par with Portland’s, the recently completed 20-year environmental cleanup of the Ridgefield waterfront, and selling port-owned, higher value property for the Rosauers grocery store development because of community demand.
“These kinds of projects enhance the lives of the people who live here,” says Hughes, “and port effort on things like broadband enhancement set a better table for business owners who need modern infrastructure to be competitive.”
“Within our scope, the port’s job is to try to balance the needs of the diverse group of people that comprise our
BRENT GRENING, CEO PORT OF RIDGEFIELD
Port leaders don’t go about this with a willy-nilly approach. Each project the port takes on must fit strategically within its overall economic development mandate, must be good for the community, and must be within its funding capacity. Financial resources must be raised if they aren’t available.
The port’s most recent project, still in the works, falls in the last category. The IT3 Discovery Center, a place for business innovation and collaboration, and worker training in the realm of advanced technologies and Industry 4.0.
“The end game on IT3 is to help our businesses be more competitive, and to expand our business base so our people can be locally-employed in better-paying work,” says port CEO, Brent Grening. “It’s worth the effort to make this happen for the long-term economic health of this community.”
Grening gets feedback from port constituents now and then (see the CEO’s column, page 4), that decry the port’s and other’s development efforts, and any pursuit that might bring more business and people to Ridgefield. While he hears and understands the frustration of those wishing for the days when Ridgefield’s rolling hills held only lush grass, stopping growth isn’t a legal option, nor would it meet the needs of all community members.
“Cities are mandated to plan for growth, and property owners have the right to develop within zoning rules,” Grening says. He also noted that some people want jobs here that don’t require a commute, and some want jobs here so their kids and grandkids can stay to live and work here.
“Within our scope, the port’s job is to try to balance the needs of the diverse group of people that comprise our community.”
The bottom line for the Port Commission and CEO Grening is to approach the port’s mandate strategically, rationally and with a balanced approach to growth and lifestyle.
“The projects we pursue with port resources are independently important, but collectively they are all linked,” says Grening. “They add up to creating a healthy economy, a healthy environment, and quite simply, a great community in which to live and work.”