August 2020 — The Port of Skagit continues to make good progress on several initiatives, including the completion of a $5-million dredging project at the La Conner Marina just in time to mark its 50th. They also restored public access to the SWIFT (Sedro-Woolley Innovation for Tomorrow) Center — one of five community goals identified during the transfer of ownership from State to Port; conducted environmental clean-up projects to deal with legacy contamination issues on the 100+ year old former mental hospital campus; and enacted a 20-year Industrial Development District levy to help support the re-development of the SWIFT Center, county-wide fiber network project, business development in the Bayview Business Park, and value-added agriculture opportunities.
Another area of progress for the Port is the ongoing work on the Skagit County Community Fiber Optic Network, an 80-mile span of dark fiber infrastructure that will improve access to consistent and affordable high-speed internet in east county communities. As part of an effort to replicate similar broadband efforts in rural areas throughout the state that have little or no internet access, the Port hosted Governor Inslee and stakeholders. The Port is one of six Washington ports to create Petrichor Broadband, a cooperative LLC that will work on broadband policy issues and funding opportunities statewide.
New initiatives undertaken by Executive Director Patsy Martin and her team included the launch of the educational outreach program, “Exploring Aviation,” utilizing VR technology. They also launched U.S. Customs & Border Protection Services at Skagit Regional Airport through a Reimbursable Services Program as well as the Genuine Skagit Valley certification mark, as a marketing tool for local agricultural producers and growers
In addressing the COVID-19 situation, the Port adopted an Emergency Declaration of Closure Policy. While buildings were closed to foot traffic and in-person interaction from March 23—June 1, they have been able to keep all staff working — many remotely with a minimal complement on-site to deal with operations. The Port also adopted a tenant rent relief program to defer rent for tenants whose operations were severely impacted by COVID-19.
On June 1, the Port re-opened offices with staggered/flexible work schedules to limit the number of staff in buildings at any one time. Projects that were underway continue to move forward under staff leadership, albeit some projects have been put on hold due to timing and prioritization of available funding.
As the situation progresses, the Port has continued to apply for grant funding to support ongoing projects and economic development opportunities, including EDA funds and FAA funds. They have also been active in communicating to Port tenants, including surveys to gauge impacts and needs, and outreach to funnel relevant information about assistance programs, best practices, policies, training and resources available at the local, state and federal levels.
The Port also continues to move forward with significant public works projects, including the development of Lot 72, the Mavrik Marine expansion, Systima Technologies development, Dyberg hangar project, broadband infrastructure and SWIFT Center renovations and infrastructure projects.