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Keep Oregon Trade Moving

The Oregon Trade and Logistics Initiative (OTLI), like any good executive initiative, rode the wave of fear and uncertainty last spring as Oregon importers and exporters grappled with the new reality of our only container terminal losing the vast majority of its ocean service. Not two months had passed since Hanjin and Hapag-Lloyd pulled their service from the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6 had newly seated Governor Kate Brown approved the expense of $35,000 in the initiative that funded six stake-holder meetings statewide and engaged consulting firm Tioga to compile, analyze and present what we had hoped would be a resolution to our idle container terminal that would indeed, “Keep Oregon Trade Moving.” OTLI identified the number one trade challenge facing the region as the “loss of weekly container service and loss of market access”. No surprise. We agree. In February the Tioga Group and Business Oregon released the expansive report that detailed logistics challenges that the local trade know all too well. Again, no surprises to be found in Tioga’s assessment: The long-term challenge facing Oregon shippers is to locate and use the most effective and efficient combination of ocean carrier service, port, truck service, and rail service for each shipment. A key success factor will be establishing repeatable shipment patterns and sustainable carrier relationships. Also in February the Oregon State legislature convened for a “short session.” The Oregon legislature was ideally set to tackle big policy, and fast. On the heels of the Tioga and Business Oregon report, the timing felt right for meaningful action on Oregon’s most pressing economic issue, the Port of Portland’s container terminal. The 2016 short session was marked by debates on the legislative floor that ranged from increased minimum wages and housing prices to Representative Vic Gilliam’s proposal to name the Newfoundland as Oregon’s state dog. Surprisingly, as exporters and importers across the state continue to absorb increased costs and compete globally to maintain international buyers, the short session was devoid of trade-centric conversation. We’d be naïve to believe that the Oregon legislature has the missing piece to a complex puzzle between the International Longshore and Warehousing Union (ILWU) and terminal operator ICTSI. But we do not feel remiss to suggest that our elected representation should, at minimum, be more alarmed that the Oregon economy stands to miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue as we exporters and importers alternate, and more time consuming and expensive, ways to get to market.

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