Port of Everett Commission Takes Historic Action to Place Boundary Enlargement on Ballot
In a historic action, on Dec. 19, 2023, the Port of Everett Commission unanimously passed Resolution No. 1220, directing Port staff to submit a proposition of enlarging the limits of the existing Port District to the Snohomish County Council for voter consideration – a first since the citizens voted to create the Port 105 years ago in 1918.
The measure, slated for the August 2024 primary ballot, will consider enlarging the Port District to all of Snohomish County, excluding City of Edmonds, Port of Edmonds, and Town of Woodway limits, respectively.
This momentous decision follows an exploratory effort by the Port to conduct an economic value study and legal assessment of expanding Port District boundaries beyond its current footprint to be better positioned to bring value and economic opportunities to more of Snohomish County.
“At this time, only about 15 percent of the County population has access to port economic development resources,” Port of Everett CEO/Executive Director Lisa Lefeber said. “The Port of Everett is one of the largest ports in the state that doesn’t serve the whole county. This measure, if passed, would allow the Port to invest in key transportation, economic development and environmental projects outside the current District.”
With the feedback collected, and following years of informal discussion on boundary expansion, the Port Commission believed it was time to give voters a chance to formally consider the opportunity for other areas of the County to have access to Port District resources.
PORT COMMISSION REACTION
“In my time serving the port industry, I’m blown away seeing and experiencing the breadth of what ports are capable of delivering to and for their communities. Ports are the pulse of our economy, and the Port of Everett is a global gateway to Snohomish County. I welcome the opportunity to be able to do more for the Snohomish County community if the voters so choose. This is a historic milestone for the Port and this community.”
- Glen Bachman, Port Commission President
“I believe this is a great chance for residents, businesses and local jurisdictions to offer up their voice on whether they would like to have access to the unique assets of the Port and the tools we have to support economic and job growth, and overall quality of life. I want to compliment the staff for the work that they have done to listen to the community – all the community meetings, briefings and so on, reflected in the report. It’s important we continue to provide opportunity for these areas of the County to give input and get questions answered.”
- Tom Stiger, Port Commission Vice President
“As we move forward today, the only thing we can do is continue to spread the word about our vision and hear from the community about what its needs are. The feedback has demonstrated that there is a lot of community interest in exploring expansion. A vote in favor of an expanded Port District would create new opportunities throughout the County for economic development and extend Port resources and support for county-wide environmental stewardship.”
- David Simpson, Port Commission Secretary
With the Commission’s petition by resolution to put boundary enlargement up for a vote, the next step is for Port staff to prepare and file all required documentation with the Snohomish County Auditor, and subsequently, the Snohomish County Council to add it to the ballot.
If the voters of the proposed enlarged area were to approve the measure (simple majority of 50.01% or more), the Port would then be required to address governance by submitting to the voters, as required by RCW 53.12.120, the proposition of whether to increase the number of Port Commissioners from three to five.
The Port would also re-open the public input process for its Strategic Plan to ensure feedback and the economic and community needs of each community are considered in the Port’s vision and capital investment plan moving forward.
A webpage with additional information and FAQs will be available in January.
Port staff will continue to engage with stakeholders and community members to share information on the ballot measure. Various public engagement opportunities will be made available through August 2024.
For additional information, or if you have interest in an informational briefing opportunity in 2024, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
MEDIA CONTACT: Catherine Soper, Port of Everett Communications & Marketing Director
About the Port & Its History
The Port District Act of 1911 authorized the creation of special purpose port districts to facilitate trade promotion and to foster industrial and economic development in Washington State. On June 8, 1918, a petition was submitted to the voters to create a countywide port district, but that failed by a small margin.
To ensure the community was able to take advantage of war-time commerce and economic opportunities at the time, the measure was repackaged into a smaller area and resubmitted to the voters. On July 13, 1918, the very next month, voters created the Port of Everett with its boundaries as they exist today. Everett was the 7th port created under the 1911 Port District’s Act. The current Port District boundaries include most of the City of Everett, portions of the Cities of Marysville and Mukilteo, and parts of unincorporated Snohomish County.
After the Port was formed, the armistice occurred, World War I ended, and the Port began planning for its future. Since then, the Port has become a critical part of the Snohomish County economy, operating the only international seaport and global gateway within the County. Through operation of its international seaport, the Port of Everett supports the two largest employers in Snohomish County – The Boeing Company and Naval Station Everett – and provides a critical supply chain for many key industries, including, but not limited to, aerospace, military, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, and forest products industries.
Today, the Port operates three lines of business that serve the entirety of Snohomish County – international shipping terminals, 2,300 slip marina and 3,400 acres of real estate, of which operations support approximately 40,000 jobs in the region and counting.
The Port plays a major role in our daily lives by facilitating the efficient transport of goods and people across our community, country, and the globe. The Port supports between $21 and $30 billion in import/export cargo value, making it the 5th largest export district on the West Coast. It also plays a major role in enhancing water access, tourism, and economic development opportunities.
The topic of boundary expansion has come up many times over the course of the Port’s 105 years of service as the current Port District. Since 1918, the greater Snohomish County area has experienced significant growth and evolving economic needs over the past century.
About Boundary Expansion
During the Port of Everett’s Strategic Plan outreach in 2018/2019, the Port sought public feedback to help set a roadmap for the next decade of Port initiatives (2020-2030). During public engagement intended to inform the Port’s 2020 Strategic Plan, the Port heard general interest in expanding Port District boundaries, linked to a desire to see the Port’s strategic investments and infrastructure improvements stretch into other parts of Snohomish County.
While many large public port districts throughout Washington state are county-wide, the Port of Everett is not. Currently, the Port’s boundaries encompass most of Everett, portions of Mukilteo, and small parts of Marysville and unincorporated Snohomish County with about 110,000 residents. To put this into perspective, with nearly 830,000 residents and counting, only about 15% of the County has port representation.
Port District boundaries as they are drawn today limit how the Port can partner with neighboring cities outside of the boundary lines to advance their community's specific economic and community priorities. In addition, with all the Port’s existing properties within its current district developed, in development now or programmed for future development, the Port is looking to the future to see how and where its unique tools and resources could be used to create new economic opportunity.
The topic of Port boundary expansion is not a new one. It has come up many times over the course of the Port’s 105 years of service, as the current Port District and greater Snohomish County area have experienced significant growth and evolving economic needs over the past century. Prior to this effort, there has never been a formal assessment of the economic value and legal implications of expanding Port District boundaries, or a formal call for input by community leaders and residents in the area to gauge interest in Port resources being offered to more areas of the County.
Given the Port’s current limitations to support economic and community priorities outside of its current boundary line, combined with the significant economic challenges and opportunities facing the County today and initial community interest, the Port Commission tasked staff with formally exploring potential boundary expansion. It became a Strategic Action Item of the Port’s 2020 Strategic Plan, adopted by the Commission in December 2019.
Since that time, Port staff, in partnership with Port Legal Counsel Anderson Hunter Law Firm and third-party consultants Maul Foster & Alongi and Critical Data Strategies, conducted a legal assessment and economic value study, including a community assessment, on the topic.
The legal assessment examined the electoral process that must be followed for the Port to enact new boundaries. The economic value study was an information-gathering effort approached through conversations with leaders and stakeholders throughout Snohomish County to learn how the Port could support their communities.
The Port held briefings with community leaders and partners across Snohomish County, including leaders from the Tulalip Tribes, County leadership, and mayors and staff from Snohomish County cities. In addition, the Port participated in various community events and meetings where the topic was discussed.
The Port also received anecdotal feedback and offered a month-long community survey opportunity that resulted in 1,514 responses, representing a cross section of residents and business owners of greater Snohomish County.
In both the briefings and via the community survey, the Port heard a clear understanding of the value that the Port could bring to other areas of Snohomish County, and interest in various ways that the Port could partner in their area to support key economic and community priorities, if boundary lines were to allow.