Economic & Workforce

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Today’s economic and political climate presents us with great uncertainty. It’s imperative that we elect a Port Commissioner who has relevant experience and an appropriate policy plan to weather the coming storm.
— Sam Cho

You’ve heard it before, with approximately 40% of jobs in the state linked to trade, Washington is the most trade dependent state in the country. According to the US Census Bureau, the State of Washington exported over $77.9 billion worth of goods to the world in the year 2018. Although at first, you may think of the Puget Sound as a tech hub with companies like Amazon and Microsoft, we are just as much an international trade hub. From soybeans, aerospace parts to fresh fruits and medical devices, we as Washingtonians truly benefit from a dynamic trade economy that encompasses every industry imaginable. 

However, this economic dynamism is not guaranteed and should not be taken for granted. Today’s economic and political climate presents us with great uncertainty. It has been over 10 years since our last recession and while I do not want to sound alarmist, I believe we are at the tail end of the business cycle. As a business owner in international exports, I’ve felt this myself. Export volumes are steadily declining since 2 years ago and the numbers don’t lie.

Do you know where Washington State’s #1 export market is? You guessed it, China. In 2017, Washington exported $20 billion of goods to China and in 2018 that number declined by 11.4%. That is no coincidence. Donald Trump’s trade war with China is disproportionately hurting Washington State’s economy. 

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Federal Reserve put a cherry on top when they lowered interest rates last month--signaling that the overall US economy isn’t doing so well. Both ISM indices for manufacturing and services have shown slowed growth and the yield-curve continues to stay inverted. 

That is why I believe the next Commissioner at the Port of Seattle will be critical in weathering the uncertainties listed above. If we enter into an economic recession, it will likely be within the 4 year term of the next Port Commissioner. Therefore, It is imperative that we elect a Port Commissioner who has relevant experience and an appropriate policy plan to weather the coming storm. 

As a candidate for the Port of Seattle, this is what I propose:

  • promote washington exports

    If Donald Trump is not going to help us with trade relations, we need to foster those relations ourselves. We must signal to the rest of the world that while Washington DC may be picking fights, Washington State is open for business. Trade delegations will target countries that have the most demand for goods made in Washington. The delegations will consist of not just Port of Seattle officials, but also Washington farmers, small business owners, manufacturers, and other elected officials to promote Washington goods and exports. Conversely, we must also invite trade delegations from other countries to Washington State to meet with local businesses and foster business partnerships. As a trade professional and expert, I am uniquely qualified for this.

  • competitiveness in freight mobility

The Port of Seattle and the Northwest Seaport Alliance is the 4th largest port in the country. Yet, the port has been met with increased competition and has lost market share to our northern neighbors at the Port of Prince Rupert and Vancouver. While the Northwest Seaport Alliance was a smart strategic move to counteract this loss in market share, the Port of Seattle will need to make significant investments in upgrades to remain competitive. It is estimated that freight forwarding prices are between $400 to $600 more expensive at the Port of Seattle compared to our Canadian neighbors.   

  • The Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) is a federal tax imposed by the federal government on goods at US ports. Goods that enter through the Port of Seattle are also subject to the HMT. However, the Federal Government does not reinvest that money into the Port of Seattle. The average charge for a 40 foot container at the port is $109. Lobbying the federal government for an exception to the Harbor Maintenance Tax will make a substantial difference in helping the Port of Seattle stay competitive. 

  • In order to maintain competitiveness at the Port of Seattle, we must make the necessary infrastructure investments to cut down on costs and ensure the freight mobility and inter modal transfers. The installation of on-dock rail at the Port of Seattle would provide the necessary infrastructure. On dock rail enables the transfer of containers from rail directly onto ships. This would remove an extra layer of drayage and provide savings that can be passed on.Terminal 5 is on-dock rail capable but the port should conduct a feasibility study at all Port of Seattle cargo terminals.


  • capital projects

In slow times, I believe the government must step in and provide a stimulation of economic activity. Investing in capital projects at the Port of Seattle will not only provide economic stimulus, but will help maintain a high level of employment. Investing in capital projects for stimulus also achieves the goal of modernizing our ports. 

  • Puget Sound Gateway is a freight corridor that connects the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma via SR 509 and SR 167. With the merger of the two ports through the Northwest Seaport Alliance it make sense to invest in this corridor to accommodate increased coordination.

  • workforce development

The United States is experiencing a major labor shortage and the Port of Seattle needs to create a pipeline for the next generation of port workers. In addition, a booming tourism and cruise industry means the need for more seasonal workers in King County. 

  • Career Connected Learning can be as simple as a business person visiting a classroom to talk about their profession or a job shadow where students learns more about a profession. In other cases, it can be an internship, registered apprenticeship where they receive paid training and hands-on experience. The Port of Seattle has an obligation to expand these initiatives and programs in order to create a pipeline for the next generation of port workers. We must start providing the next generation of our workforce with an alternative to a 4 year college and mountain of student loan debt. 

  • Maritime High School: The maritime industry will be adding tens of thousands of jobs across the country within the next decade. In the Puget Sound, every industry from trade, logistics, fishing, tourism is expected to grow. However, we are faced with the challenge of not having enough local workers with the skills to support these demands. A maritime high school will allow students who express interest in a maritime career to navigate the confusing and bureaucratic of receiving the appropriate qualifications, credentials, and certifications. Maritime High School would consolidate and concentrate the efforts of maritime professional development.

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A Port for the People

We must signal to the rest of the world that while Washington DC is picking fights, Washington state is open for business. As a trade professional expert, I am uniquely qualified for this.