After interviews with over 50 marine businesses over the past year, the City of Anacortes, Port of Anacortes and Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County unveiled a plan Monday night intended to guide the future of the maritime industry in Anacortes.
The draft of the joint Maritime Strategic Plan outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the maritime sector, and sets goals and plans for future improvements.
“Bottom line, we want to support our maritime community, grow it and have it be sustainable,” Mayor Laurie Gere said.
Some of the top obstacles faced by marine businesses includes a lack of physical space, trouble navigating regulatory issues, and challenges finding trained workers with necessary skills, said Sean Connell, EDASC director of business development and global competitiveness.
Gere said she also heard feedback that Anacortes lacks apprenticeship programs or other ways to draw young people into the maritime workforce.
“How do we change culture in Anacortes that young people look forward to the (marine industries) as careers?”
Skagit Valley College’s marine manufacturing program at Marine Technology Center in Anacortes is the only comprehensive marine education program on the West Coast, the plan states.
Councilman Matt Miller said the new Anacortes High School will have an improved career and technical education facility, able to support students interested in going straight into the workforce.
The maritime sector provides 1,186 jobs in Anacortes, according to 2016 data from the state Employment Department. The total number of jobs in Anacortes is just over 10,100, according to 2017 data.
Maritime sub-sectors include ship/boat building maintenance and repair, recreational boating (including marinas, boat dealers and scenic/sightseeing transportation), commercial fishing and seafood products, maritime logistics and shipping and passenger water transportation.
Each maritime job in Washington supports 1.8 jobs elsewhere, according to the draft plan.
The average annual pay for maritime jobs in Washington is $67,000, while the average salary for Anacortes maritime jobs is $49,863.
Another issue that came up was creating affordable housing options for the workforce.
“We will not have a large enough workforce if they can’t live here,” Commissioner Jon Petrich said. “It is not in the port’s mission to work toward affordable housing issues, but if there is something we can do to help an organization, we should definitely put our full support behind that.”
Another goal is to increase public access to the waterfront, including improving the Washington Park boat ramp and creating a second public ramp on Fidalgo Bay.
Commissioner Joe Verdoes said this is a common concerns he hears from recreational boaters.
“They can’t find a place to put their boat in, or they have to wait in a line,” he said.
Councilwoman Liz Lovelett said the port and city should take the lead in environmental stewardship for the maritime industry, such as consider vessel emissions capture for ships at cargo docks.
Gere is currently serving on the Gov. Jay Inslee’s Maritime Innovation Advisory Council, helping look for ways to make Washington’s maritime industry more sustainable by 2050.
“We can get this done years before the state of Washington can accomplish this,” Gere said.
City, port and EDASC staff will make changes to the draft based on comments.
One of the biggest takeaways were the 50 businesses who said the government had never before asked for their input, Gere said.