Photo by Shane Harms
A higher proportion of jobs in Ballard are shipyards that do repairs and logistics. Approximately 41% of all direct Maritime employment is located in King County.

Maritime economic study links to Ballard

An extensive study examining the economic impact of the maritime industry was released last Nov. that quantifies the economic systems at work in Ballard, Washington State, and beyond.

The “Maritime Cluster Economic Impact Study” was produced by Community Attributes Inc., Puget Sound Regional Council, Work Force Development Council of Seattle and King County, and supported by the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County.

The study serves as a way to quantify the economic impact of the maritime cluster in Washington State and illuminates the strengths and potential for growth.

The cluster study broke down the maritime industry into six core categories: passenger water transportation, boat and ship building, repair and maintenance, maritime logistics and shipping, fishing and seafood products, military and federal operations and maritime support services. The data was collected in 2012.

Moreover, the economic impact of these core sectors was measured by direct, indirect, and induced monetary measures. “Induced,” meaning jobs resulting from the spending of new labor income associated with Maritime activities.

Some of the key findings were that 148,000 Washington jobs come from the maritime industry and 90,000 of those are indirect or induced jobs paying $4 billion in wages. Furthermore, overall there is $30 billion of gross business income generated to Washington’s economy from the maritime cluster.

Of the sectors examined, maritime logistics and shipping was the largest job supplier in the state and accounted for 29% of maritime employment. A close second was boat and shipbuilding repair and maintenance with 28.6% of maritime jobs. Seafood processing accounted for 27% of total employment.

On the fiscal level, the study finds that Maritime activities supported with combined total impacts estimated as $351.5 million in state tax revenues.

Moreover, approximately 41% of all direct Maritime employment is located in King County.

Eugene Wasserman, President at North Seattle Industrial Association, said that this was an important study that revealed the economic significance the maritime industry brings to not only the state but also the smaller communities like Ballard.

“The maritime industry is a family wage job sector in the state and provides a lot of good paying jobs and a bedrock that’s always here… companies are local and contribute to the overall economy. So it’s a just a major industry here that has dominated the area,” said Wassern.

These family wage jobs happen to be in high concentration in Ballard, especially the ship repair, logistics, and seafood processing. Keep in mind fishing and seafood processing accounted for nearly 60% of total revenues.

According to “Economic Value o the Alaska Seafood Industry,” a paper prepared by the McDowell Group, the U.S., as a whole, bought roughly $21.0 billion worth of seafood in 2011.

“It’s (Seafood processing) is not the biggest producer of jobs here. We have a number of ship repair and support businesses, and we have a lot of fishing boats here and crews come here to get one board. … A lot of the fisherman live in the Puget Area, though maybe not immediately local – more Seattle or north of Seattle, and because of that there is a lot a lot of money moving around,” said Wassern.

Wassern explained that the higher proportion of jobs in Ballard are shipyards that do repairs, logistics, and support businesses like Ballard Oil or Foss Maritime Company that support fishing fleets seeking fresh water mooring at Fishermen’s Terminal.

According to Kenneth Lyles, general manager of Fishermen’s Terminal, not only are fishing fleets seeking mooring but also recreational and tourist passenger vessels.

Concurrently, both papers mentioned a stabilization of the fishing industry and “rosy” job prospects. Moreover, Wassern explained that with sea ice melting and climate change, the arctic has potential to spur growth in the maritime industry.

Revenues cluster-wide have grown an average of 6.4% per year, while maritime logistics and shipping saw the highest growth rate of 10.2%.

“Arctic business that are coming into the area are mainly oil rig and businesses will be expanding and so some of the bigger ship yards in the area will be stimulated,” said Wassern.

What’s more is that Wassen explained that a high concentration of fishing vessels and support boats are reaching their life span and will need repairs which will provide work loads for the maintenance and repair sector as well as the vessel construction.

Though the industry is stabilized, and even looking at growth in some sectors, Wassern said there are some factors that could influence maritime operations.

“Residents so close to industrial zones can be problematic -- that’s becoming more of an issue, and the Burke Gilman Trail is a safety issue that has still not been resolved,” said Wassern.

Other factors, such as limited space, have caused the Foss shipyard to move to Everett, taking valuable jobs with it. However, Wassern said that Foss moving has actually a good thing and that there is potential for new maritime businesses to move in and also diversify job prospects.

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