Port of Benton ticked through to-do list despite Covid-19 challenges
2020 started as a year of transition, followed by a global pandemic and an unprecedented new way of doing business.
Your Port of Benton team stepped up, setting the bar high by delivering a new website and accelerating digital communications, key capital projects and organizational improvements.
These achievements demonstrate the team’s flexibility and commitment to meeting the port’s strategic objectives.
Completion of our $2 million rail bridge rehabilitation project opens the door for further improvements to safety and traffic conditions.
Façade enhancements to the Chukar Cherries building in Prosser made impactful change to the facility by incorporating updated branding. It is a wonderful representation of the importance of value-added agriculture to our region.
The Richland Airport master plan process kicked off in 2020, and we encourage ongoing community engagement as the process progresses. See our website for updates.
We will continue to work with the community and our partners to ensure our assets remain a worthy investment to the taxpayers.
To that end, we had several virtual discussions with our team and community partners, as well as one-on-one interviews with private industry, to develop an organizational vision, strategic, comprehensive and continuity plans that were used as part of our 2021 budget development.
We want our new strategic plan to hold the port accountable, while keeping us innovative, ambitious, focused on safety, effectiveness and resilience, along with sound governance.
Our focus continues to be agribusiness land sales in Vintner’s Village in Prosser, along with fulfilling the spirit and intent for ongoing education and tourism within the Walter Clore Center in Prosser.
In north Richland we are focused on working with the Tri-Cities Research District that includes the city of Richland, city of Pasco, Energy Northwest, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Columbia Basin College and Washington State University Tri-Cities, along with other key businesses and organizations that are focused on technology-led economic development and commercialization.
One primary goal is to ready land in north Richland along the city of Richland to begin our marketing and recruitment efforts to support advanced manufacturing and its supply chain and research needs. We will seek to provide opportunities for growth and further development of the Manhattan National Park and Hanford History Project as our region grows in STEM Tourism.
Economic development is a long-term game.
A couple of examples are our previous work and investment working with TRIDEC’s IT Taskforce and the city of Richland that brought in $1.2 million of broadband investment into the research district.
This regional review allowed further investment by local utilities to extend and coordinate service into Prosser, providing the Tri-Cities much-needed bandwidth redundancy.
We will continue to implement our plans by developing a Wi-Fi mesh network in 2021 throughout the 2,875-acre research district. The network will allow users to walk from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to Washington State University Tri-Cities and stream connections from one campus to the other.
Further joint investments and coordination with the city of Richland led to $10 million in roads and utility investment that resulted in over $494 million in private investment and 700 jobs.
We will continue to follow the research district master plan, Port Heritage Resources Management Plan and the Port of Benton’s Strategic Plan to continue to leverage these investments with plans to design and build a commercialization building in 2021-22; we will continue improvements within our existing facilities and assets that support private industry investment, projects and jobs.
Although our port team faced challenges, it executed and delivered to accomplish a great deal this year.
We will build on our successes and strive to do so at the highest level.
We are honored to be of service as a viable community asset committed to supporting and strengthening our fragile economy post-Covid-19. We will be cautious but optimistic moving into 2021.
We thank our commission, all the amazing downtown associations, Benton County, city of Richland, city of Prosser, city of Benton City, chambers, Prosser Economic Development Association and Tri-City Development Council for their frontline efforts and coordination with us to provide services and support of our small business community.
We are inspired by their spirit and renewed with gratitude and grit as we stand by them along with our community during a historical and unprecedented time.
Diahann Howard is executive director of the Port of Benton in Richland.