The hull of a 125-foot, three-deck tour boat was towed across Bellingham Bay today, where its builder, All American Marine, will tow it ashore to the company’s new, nearby Downtown facility. This major activity at Squalicum Harbor boat launch signaled yet another symbolic mark of the vital Whatcom County working waterfronts.
The $7 million vessel, under construction for Argosy Cruises in Seattle, is too large for completion at All American’s old facility at 200 Harris Avenue in Fairhaven. All American’s new 57,000 square foot manufacturing plant has opened a new market segment of larger commercial vessels. e.g., All American recently inked a deal to build its next project, a 128-foot long, 600-passenger hybrid electric vessel for the Red and White Fleet of San Francisco, Calif.
All American plans to hire an additional 25 employees after their relocation soon. Their move led to Fairhaven Shipyard signing a lease with the Port of Bellingham to expand into All American’s old facility, giving them much-needed space and allowing them to enlarge operations.
The growth of the local maritime industry comes as no surprise to Jim Kyle, Vice President of the Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County that represents over 100 marine-related businesses. “Our excellent harbors, strategic location, and large cluster of close-by marine businesses make Whatcom County the best place on Puget Sound to base a commercial marine operation,” Kyle said. “And these companies produce mostly living-wage jobs, which are in short supply."
According to a report recently published by the Center for Economic and Business Research at Western Washington University, 6,033 jobs are created or supported by the marine trades representing 7% of Whatcom County’s total workforce. The Working Waterfront Coalition and Whatcom Commercial Fisherman’s Association sponsored the economic impact analysis and played a key role in volunteer data-gathering.
“This study illustrates the importance of a still very viable industry” said President and CEO of Bellingham Cold Storage Doug Thomas. “The Seafood and Maritime Services industries provide thousands of excellent paying jobs while a consistent base of economic activity.”
Economic Development Specialist Dodd Snodgrass at the Port of Bellingham concurred. “The local maritime sector is critical to the health of the regional economy” Snodgrass said. “Marine trades industries on Port property alone generate over $122 million in direct income and provide over $18 million in taxes each year. From Fairhaven to Blaine, we see strong signs of growth for one of the largest employment sectors in Whatcom County.”
Kyle pointed out that maritime-related businesses in Whatcom County provide 3,970 direct jobs, well above the number of employees working for each of the county’s two largest employers – St. Joseph Peace Health Medical Center (2,753), and Western Washington University (1,575).