Port of Everett hiring for three top-level jobs

EVERETT — The Port of Everett is looking to fill three top-level jobs as it readies to navigate a coming wave of expansion.

The openings include a replacement for the retiring chief financial officer, the agency’s No. 3 ranking administrator. The other positions were newly created to oversee economic development and marketing needs.

Whoever lands those jobs will take on responsibilities for building up the port’s Marina District and its shipping lines.

Things could get even busier for the future hires, depending on what happens with the former Kimberly-Clark mill site on the waterfront, which the port has been eying as a way to expand cargo capacity.

“I think we’re on the precipice of some very exciting times at the port,” chief administrative officer Les Reardanz said.

The port has a combined capital and operating budget of more than $56 million. It ranks fifth in export value among U.S. ports on the West Coast. It has 90 full-time positions, with summer jobs pushing the total above 100 seasonally.

The port supports thousands of other jobs in the region, many in aerospace. Its facilities ship parts for three series of Boeing Co. jetliners.

Among the port’s top priorities is developing a 45-acre Marina District, where workers could begin construction by early next year. The plan includes condos, hotels, parkland and space for light manufacturing. Environmental cleanup should be under way this summer.

The marina development is near where an earlier project called Port Gardner Wharf fell apart in the post-2008 economic downturn. The port is the developer now.

Separately, the port is readying to market its Riverside Industrial Park on the Snohomish River. More than a third of the 80-plus-acre area remains undeveloped.

At the same time, the port is pushing to grow its cargo business. It went for years without a shipping line, then signed three in 2005, port spokeswoman Lisa Lefeber said. It’s added three more since.

The port also saw log ships return in 2012 after an absence of many years. The most recent log ship left Everett Tuesday bound for China, with more expected this year, Lefeber said.

If more cargo businesses materializes, it could push the port’s physical limits, Port Commissioner Tom Stiger said.

“Our terminal operations have increased over the last couple of years, so we’re reaching the point where we’re operating at about 80 percent of capacity,” Stiger said. “That’s good in the sense that it’s bringing in more cargo. On the other hand, it somewhat limits our capacity to take in additional cargo and additional shipping lines, because we lack the terminal space and the backup areas.”

For that reason, buying the 66-acre site of the former Kimberly-Clark mill is a tantalizing prospect for the port.

The port’s interest in the property, which abuts its existing terminal, would be building more cargo facilities on the East Waterway. The land also has space for cargo handling on land and direct access to Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail lines.

In January, the Everett City Council voted to zone much of the former mill property for water-dependent industrial development, which could include shipping or boat-building. Demolition there is expected to finish this spring.

The real estate firm marketing the property says it’s talking to several potential buyers, not just the port.

Before making a move, the port wants to know what kind of financial and legal risks it might be getting into, if it takes the plunge.

At the top of the list is how well-suited the land would be for cargo.

Also, there’s the expensive proposition of environmental cleanup. Known contaminants there include petroleum on land and dioxins in the East Waterway.

“We’re trying to determine the extent of the cleanup liability,” Stiger said. “That will ultimately determine the price of the property.”

Reardanz said he expects to have a better idea within the next couple of months about what due diligence will be necessary.

Kirkland search firm Jensen &Cooper is helping the port search for its next CFO and economic development chief. The application deadline closes in May.

Current CFO Karen Clements has announced plans to retire in September. The Port hopes to pick her replacement by August. The job pays $125,000 to $135,000 yearly.

“We’ve been real fortunate that she’s been with the port in that position in the past 18 years,” Stiger said. “… Those are going to be big shoes to fill.”

The Port’s new economic development chief will be responsible for retaining and expanding port business. That includes overseeing the Marina District and marketing the Riverside Business Park. The annual salary range is $108,000 to $128,000.

The other new position, the director of marine marketing, will handle customer relations and sales, focusing on the shipping terminals. Annual is $85,000 to $100,000. The port plans to fill the position internally.

The three new hires should help the port make the Everett waterfront more vibrant, enjoyable and profitable.

“It’s an exciting time, not only for the port but for the community,” Reardanz said. “We are trying to create that destination down here that will enhance the community in a way that will not conflict with other developments in the area, including downtown. We’re trying to complement the downtown area.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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