by Kathy Ursprung
THE DALLES, Ore. — When Port of The Dalles commissioners sat down Aug. 8, to deliberate over their regular business, it was the 1,021st time a Port Commission had done so.
That’s 12 regular monthly meetings over the course of 85 years, plus the first meeting of their 86th year, not counting special meetings and any meeting cancelled due to fire, flood or other calamity.
The Port of The Dalles held its very first meeting on Aug. 8, 1933, 85 years to the day prior to this year’s meeting.
“I’m proud to be a part of this longstanding tradition of creating jobs and building the economy of the Port District,” said Andrea Klaas. “The Port started 85 years ago with a vision of turning The Dalles into a hub of ocean-going commerce. Over the years, we have continued to evolve as economic conditions have evolved.”
When Martin Marietta Aluminum closed in the 1980s, hundreds of local jobs and throwing the local area into a severe economic downturn, the voters passed a $4.5 million bond issue to help the Port develop land to diversify the economy.
“The Port of The Dalles Industrial Area is now home to about 75 different businesses, employing around 1,500 people, not to mention the hundreds of construction workers who are engaged to help with economic expansion,” Klaas said.
Port Commission President Greg Weast acknowledged the many port commissioners and employees who have served the Port over the years and helped make that economic growth happen.
“They deserve our thanks for the work they’ve done,” Weast said. “I’m pleased to be working for an organization that both works for the benefit of the community and is extremely cost-conscious. We’ve used that original public seed money over and over again to spur hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment.”
Mike Courtney, the longest serving commissioner in the Port’s history, said it has been rewarding to watch the Port’s industrial area fill in over the years.
“When I first got on here, Precision Lumber and the two incubator buildings at the entry to Crates Way were about it,” Courtney said. “For a while there it was pretty slow.”
Today, the Port continues to respond to current business challenges by engaging in workforce development efforts — helping career seekers develop new skills and connect with businesses seeking skilled workers. The Port also plays an important role in representing the business perspective as it relates to public policy at the local, state and federal level.
“As time goes on, the Port will continue to adjust in response to the changing needs of our business community,” Klaas said.
The Port of The Dalles District covers about 425 square miles of northern Wasco County, including the cities of The Dalles and Dufur.