EVERETT — Is that Jack Ng, the owner of China City, the Mill Creek restaurant, stopping by the port, again?
Since excavators first appeared in November, Ng has regularly brought friends — including former commerce secretary, China ambassador and Washington Gov. Gary Locke — to a Port of Everett construction site near Hotel Indigo.
It’s where two new retail buildings will take form.
One of them is the future home of Ng’s new restaurant, Fisherman Jack’s, built around an American-Chinese menu starring seafood and noodles.
Ng, who owns three restaurants in Snohomish and Island counties, hopes to open the waterfront restaurant by the end of the year.
“It depends on how COVID goes,” Ng said.
Like many business owners, Ng has faced a multitude of challenges brought on, or worsened by, the pandemic. Staff shortages and supply chain bottlenecks are high on the list.
The omicron variant, yet another wrench in recovery, has made it tough to see what the future will bring. And yet, standing still is not the answer, Ng said.
“You can’t just wait until the fog clears, you’ve got to keep moving,” he said.
Ng plans to continue to chart the progress of the port’s new “restaurant row,” which will add bakeries, breweries and a wine walk to the waterfront.
The Herald Business Journal asked local business and nonprofit leaders how they plan to steer the ship this year and what they look forward to. Like Ng, they say shutting down the engines isn’t the answer.
China City, Fisherman Jack’s restaurants
“The well-being of our customers and staff are our number one priority,” Ng said. “We will continue to do everything we can with the most recent information to bring them wonderful and safe experiences at all of our restaurants. We will continue to make that our focus as we move forward — and that is exactly what we will do, keep moving forward.
“For 2022, we are extremely excited for Fisherman Jack’s restaurant,” Ng said. “We are also very excited to continue to work with the Port of Everett. They are bringing even more new events and opportunities for businesses to thrive in the new marina. I would really encourage other businesses to take a look at partnering with the port.”
Port of Everett
The Port of Everett recorded a notable series of firsts in 2021. The $57 million cargo terminal welcomed its first cargo ship. Developer SeaLevel’s Waterfront Place Apartments opened in May. A new 2,000-square-foot fishing pier in Mukilteo welcomed anglers.
“Going into year three of the pandemic, the port will continue to support economic recovery and be a stable force of employment for our county,” port CEO Lisa Lefeber said.
To achieve that, the port has “created a strategic and forward-thinking $54 million capital budget for 2022, while adopting a rather conservative operating budget,” Lefeber said.
The approach allows the “job-producing and quality of life projects” to move forward while avoiding operational cuts, should the recovery take longer than expected, she said.
A new marine cargo terminal at the former Kimberly-Clark mill site and construction of two new retail buildings at Waterfront Place are but two examples.
Plans are also afoot to complete the Blue Heron Slough salmon habitat restoration project and open new waterfront trails at the new Baywood business park, at 200 West Marine View Drive, Lefeber said.
“I am looking forward to 2022 being a year of unification, not polarization; and hope rather than fear. I am hoping for healing, not only in the economy, but socially,” Lefeber said. “And I am hoping for a transition back to ‘normal.’”
Aviation Technical Services
Headquartered at Paine Field in Everett, Aviation Technical Services is one of the largest airplane repair firms in North America and is Snohomish County’s second-largest aerospace employer.
When the COVID-19 pandemic crushed air travel, ATS — like other aerospace companies — was forced to layoff hundreds of employees. Although the omicron variant is slowing progress, the airline industry revived last year, helping ATS rebound.
Paul Dolan, CEO of ATS, expects to focus this year on rebuilding the company’s workforce and improving training and apprenticeship programs.
“While the recent omicron variant and potential for further presidential mandates have our attention, we don’t anticipate them influencing our approach significantly,” Dolan said.
“Our ATS COVID-19 protocols have helped us stay healthy and open throughout the pandemic, so we will continue to emphasize their importance,” Dolan said.
“As an essential business, being open to serve our customers has been critical for our airline customers so that they, in turn, can continue connecting families, businesses and vacationers through flight,” he said.
Commercial Aircraft Interiors
Commercial Aircraft Interiors (CAI), which refurbishes airplane interiors, took a tumble when air travel was extinguished by the pandemic. “Everything a passenger sees inside the cabin from the flight deck on, we refurbish,” said the Carlos Veliz, the company’s business strategist.
To fill the void, the company fashioned face shields from refurbished airplane windows, but the pivot wasn’t enough to prevent layoffs or the need to downsize.
“We started with reducing our overhead and moved the company to Burlington, leaving Arlington completely,” Veliz said.
“The industry is slowly coming back,” Veliz said “We are running several campaigns to hire local workers that will support our growth plan. Yes, COVID has hit home at Commercial Aircraft Interiors with infections and loss of family members. We just hope that folks will take it seriously and find ways to be safe and make intelligent life decisions.”
Country Rose/The Paint Bungalow
Arlington has become a destination for shoppers and day-trippers. The recent change has been a boost for Kathleen Shalan and Donna Mains, co-owners of Country Rose/The Paint Bungalow & Home Decor, an eclectic gift and home goods store at 430 N. Olympic Ave.
Business took a hit in 2020 when a statewide COVID-19 mandate closed non-essential businesses for two months. Their latest headache? Supply chain disruptions. Wholesale orders are either delayed or arrive half-filled, Shalan said.
“It looks like this will be another cautious year of business,” Shalan said.
Despite their caution, they’ve set their sights on gaining greater market share and capitalizing on the growth in north Snohomish County.
Two trends that emerged during the pandemic — online buying and home decor sales — are expected to continue apace.
“With more people shopping online than ever before, one of our areas of focus will be building our online presence and doing more live videos,” Shalan said.
Economic Alliance Snohomish County
In February, Garry Clark, head of Economic Alliance Snohomish County, will celebrate his one-year anniversary as CEO of the countywide chamber of commerce and development organization.
The non-profit organization will continue to play a key role in the county’s recovery from the COVID-19 economic downturn, Clark said. New this year is an equity, diversity and inclusion initiative, SnoCODE, that’s geared toward local employers and nonprofits that want to strengthen their commitment.
The group’s “coffee chats,” free virtual gatherings open to all, will continue. The series has helped connect the community with lawmakers, economists and educators, Clark said.
This year Economic Alliance hopes to extend its reach. “People are chomping at the bit to have some in-person events,” Clark said. “Well be keeping our eye on what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.”
Housing Hope’s most vexing pandemic challenge has been the restrictions on in-person contact.
“That is the fundamental factor that has adversely affected a lot of what we do,” said Fred Safstrom, CEO of Housing Hope and HopeWorks. The nonprofit provides affordable housing options and social services to reduce homelessness and poverty for residents of Snohomish County and Camano Island.
“On the services side, our College of Hope Program, a basic skills program, was devastated” last year. “We couldn’t reach success over Zoom,” Safstrom said.
Safstrom looks forward to a future where the restrictions on in-person contact are gone and the nonprofit can restore programs to previous levels. “It’s not so much us that suffers, it’s those that we serve who suffer,” he noted.
Despite obstacles, Housing Hope was able to start construction last year on Twin Lakes Landing II, a low-income apartment complex near Smokey Point that will house 60 families, Safstrom said.
Also underway is a plan to build 52-units of affordable family housing at Highway 99 and 236th Street Southwest, in collaboration with Edmonds Lutheran Church.
For Safstrom, the most important game changer was the Snohomish County Council’s recent approval of a 0.1% sales tax to fund emergency and affordable housing and behavioral health services. The tax is expected to raise $116 million over five years.
Its passage will allow organizations, such as Housing Hope, to leverage more state and federal funds.
It means that “every dollar you get from Snohomish County can be leveraged about 10 times,” Safstrom said.
“This is just transformative,” Safstrom said. “In a couple years we’ll be able to launch more permanent, supportive housing. Who knows? Maybe we close some of those emergency shelters — wouldn’t that be great?”
Schack Art Center
Led by 16 board members and Executive Director Judy Tuohy, the Schack Art Center in Everett hosts gallery shows, art classes and artist studios. Last year, the Schack cancelled an exhibit by Everett photographer Bob Fink, “Indigenous Peoples: Photos From the Ends of the Earth,” due to questions about cultural sensitivity. The Daily Herald later uncovered that Fink, a psychiatrist, was accused of sexual misconduct with a patient.
In response to the controversy, “the Schack reaffirmed its long-standing policy on cultural exhibits and will continue to follow the policy,” Tuohy said. “Learning about other cultures, customs and values fosters understanding and exposes us to new beliefs and perspectives.
“If a cultural exhibit speaks on behalf of another community, identity group or culture, a representative of that community, identity group or culture must be brought in, to curate the exhibit and provide a culturally accurate respective narrative.”
In 2022, the Schack is excited to “offer a wealth of fantastic visual arts programming,” Tuohy said in an email.
COVID forced many classes and events to switch to an online format, but the result was that the Schack’s social media reach “exploded.”
The Schack has resumed many in-person art classes and gatherings but still plans to provide virtual or hybrid events, Tuohy said.