A growing awareness of the Port of Olympia as an engine for local economic growth has led many Thurston County residents to question the direction the Port has pursued. During election season this awareness has centered on one Port tenant, the Olympia Farmers Market, an organization that hosts over 70 local businesses and is busy serving customers nine months of the year. This is not a charity case; the Farmers Market pays as much (or more) rent per square foot as any other Port tenant. It’s a symbiotic financial relationship that benefits everyone: the Port, local growers and crafts people, and the citizens of Thurston County who have a one-stop shopping location for a wide variety of local goods. Thousands of local jobs are centered around the Olympia Farmers Market.
Contrast this with out-of-County Port of Olympia clients like the Weyerhaeuser Corporation who cost the Port and City of Olympia hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in tax subsidies and road maintenance. They are also a significant source of diesel pollution as 100 log trucks a day drive through downtown Olympia to the Port marine terminal. Almost no local jobs are generated by Weyerhaeuser’s presence at the Port and many are lost as we export our raw materials to foreign manufacturing plants. Such use of Port property amounts to corporate welfare, paid for by Thurston County taxpayers. This with the environmental disaster caused by previous corporate client Cascade Pole fresh in our memory.
Sue Gunn understands the simple financial lesson of this comparison. On her website she has this to say about the Olympia Farmers Market and it’s relationship to the Port of Olympia:
“The Market is the epitome of the type of economic development that the Port should promote. It has created thousands of local jobs and has generated millions of dollars of value from local resources. It also has increased the quality of life in our community. It provides an economic development model that should be applied elsewhere in the county by the Port in partnership with other local governments.”
It’s time for a new direction at the Port Olympia, one that harnesses the collective resources of the Port for local economic development, instead of using our tax dollars to subsidize multi-national corporations who contribute very little to Thurston County but cost us dearly in subsidies and unwanted pollution.
Sue Gunn worked ten years as director of budget and appropriations for the Wilderness Society where she developed expertise in the federal appropriations process and fiscal analysis. She’s an environmental scientist (geology) who knows how local economic development can be accomplished with minimal impact on both ecosystem and human lifestyle. For Thurston County she’s the perfect combination of fiscal responsibility and environmental stewardship.
Vote Sue Gunn for Port of Olympia Commissioner, District 3.