The Association of Pacific Ports is pleased to welcome (back!) Business Oregon as our newest Associate Member. With one in six jobs in the State attributable to port activity, Oregon’s Economic Development Agency – Business Oregon – places a high priority on working with the 23 public ports in Oregon to support economic development initiatives. “We are involved in all sorts of public infrastructure investments with the aim of supporting economic development in the state,” said Courtney Flathers, Business Oregon’s Ports Program Policy Coordinator. “We also support private businesses through tax incentive programs, innovation, entrepreneurship, and global recruitment, for example.”
As the key point person for ports, Flathers works with colleagues across the agency to facilitate projects that fall under the Port Planning and Marketing Fund as well as the Port Revolving Loan Fund.
The Port Planning and Marketing Fund provides grants of up to $50,000 (with 25 percent matching funding) to assist ports with their strategic business plans (a state requirement) or any other marketing or planning process – for example, feasibility studies, new infrastructure project planning, or a marketing project. Flathers noted that the parameters of the grant are broadly defined.
The Oregon Port Revolving Fund allows ports to apply for loans to help with projects such as pre-planning or design work as well as construction. “This fund is also quite broadly defined,” said Flathers. “Essentially, a port can apply for a loan for any project that the port is legally authorized to undertake. They do however need to have their business plan in place and up to date.” With a cap of $3 million on borrowing, Flathers went on to say that Business Oregon is working on modernizing the statute for this program and recapitalizing the fund in the 2023 legislative session, recognizing that there is a gap between the size of the loan and the needs of ports.
While the support that these two funds provide can’t be overstated, they are not the only way Business Oregon works to facilitate economic development for ports. “We host a virtual training program on a monthly basis that features various speakers and agencies who join to share information on a wide range of topics of interest to ports – this can range from permitting information to updates on offshore wind development and many topics in between.”
Business Oregon also has a lobbyist in Washington, DC, who advocates on behalf of public ports. “A lot of that work is focused on funding and policy issues, including federal appropriations and working with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
And if that’s not enough to keep Flathers busy, the State of Oregon also owns a dredge. “The State Legislature purchased a dredge in 2015 and, while Business Oregon is technically the owner, we contract with the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay to maintain and operate it. The state provides funds to pay for the maintenance costs.” Flathers oversees the Oregon Public Ports Dredging Partnership, a voluntary group that provides guidance and oversight over the use of the state dredge. This includes the annual process for soliciting applications from ports in need of dredging in a particular year.
Priorities on the horizon for Flathers and Business Oregon include working with the University of Oregon’s Institute for Policy Research and Engagement on an economic impact and needs assessment for ports. Work started over this past summer and will continue through to mid-2023. “It’s a significant project we’re undertaking but very important to allow us to help ports in the way they need,” she said. “The last study was done in 2014 so this will give us an updated picture on infrastructure and capital needs. Many ports have infrastructure that is nearing its end of life and this study will give us a good idea of what’s needed so we can make a strategy from there.”
APP is indeed very pleased to welcome Business Oregon as a returning member and looks forward to working with Courtney to assist in her efforts to support Oregon ports.