PORT TOWNSEND — No one seems to know the total effect Jefferson County’s marine trades have on the economy of the area, say members of the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association.
To find out, the association (PTMTA) has contracted with Martin Associates, a transportation and industrial consulting firm that studies ports and infrastructure. The Economic Impact Study for the Maritime Sector of Jefferson County report should be completed sometime this month.
“They have studied ports all across North America and have done all our surrounding ports in Washington state. We are interested in what they have to say,” said Pam Petranek, PTMTA secretary.
“We didn’t want a political study; we wanted a scientific and economic study. They understand us, they speak our language and know how waterfronts work.”
A benefit is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight to help pay for the study. The Port Townsend Brewing Company, 330 19th St., will donate 50 percent of its proceeds to the marine trade community. Live music is planned by marine diesel pro Joe Crecka and the Homewreckers. The group hopes to raise $10,000.
“They made us a really good offer on the price of the study,” said Petranek, who works with Cape Cleare Fishery of Port Townsend as a fisherwoman and in marketing and selling.
“Typically, a port undertakes this and has access to $70,000 to pay for a study like this,” she said. “They asked us how much we could afford. They felt compelled to be involved and want to help save the maritime trades here.”
She’s involved in every aspect of the business. She has been in the marine trades over 10 years and was a sailing instructor focusing on women’s sailing, as well as a sailboat racer.
Petranek, who has been in the marine trades for more than a decade, said she expects the report will reflect the impact of the local maritime community. She estimates that, among the marine trades, fisheries, seafood processing, aquaculture, scientific research, education, recreation and tourism, the number of people employed in the maritime community is over 500.
“Our port is important because it is a portal for boats and provides that access to the waterfront. But small business radiates out beyond the port. The ones that are way out there are dependent on what is able to be funneled into the port.”
Association member Gwendolyn Tracy said that amazing innovations can come out of these little shops.
“There is a lot of innovation on our waterfront,” she said.
”The maritime industry is not as regulated as others like aerospace. So it’s possible to create some cutting-edge technology in small bits here and there. It drives the changes upstream from it. I think it’s only been recently that we’ve seen such innovation in maritime.”
The association became concerned when members noticed a drop in activity in the boat yard during the winter, Petranke said.
In December, Gov. Jay Inslee launched Washington Maritime Blue 2050, an initiative that focuses on healthy oceans and innovations in the maritime sector that creates living wage jobs. Petranke and Tracy attended the meeting.
Part of the initiative involves training a new maritime workforce composed of a younger generation. The industry is facing a “critical age wave” in its workforce, with significant numbers of workers getting ready to retire in the next 10-15 years, according to the state.
“We are unique on the east and west coasts of North America in the quantity and quality of the marine tradespeople,” said Carol Hasse, owner of Port Townsend Sails, who has been part of the maritime trade in Port Townsend for 40 years.
“This is an authentic marine trades community that contributes so much economically to the area,” said Haase, one of the founders of the Wooden Boat Festival, who has served with the Wooden Boat Foundation and the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.
The marine trades need replacements as practitioners age out, she said.
“Our economy needs it and the authenticity of our community as a seaport needs it. It’s so critical to who we are.”
Hasse said marine tradespeople don’t make a lot of money.
“It’s a lifestyle choice and a passion for what we do. The ability to work with our hands and see tangible evidence of a product, and to have an interface with nature and with youth. Most of us work with kids, they grew up in our shops.”
“Working waterfronts are disappearing because you can make more money if you can build a condo, or hotel or chain restaurant.
“That’s something Port Townsend can’t abide for its heart and soul and long-term economy.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-395-2335 or at [email protected]