“Growth Is Opportunity"

By: Maggie Wilson Posted: 06/21/2019

What's new for the Pacific Northwest’s $21.4 billion maritime industry?


Washington state flourishes in large part due to our powerful maritime industry. Statewide, our maritime sector contributes more than $21.4 billion in gross business income – and directly employs nearly 69,500 people.

At our Executive Speaker Series event on maritime, attendees learned what has changed for the industry and what is coming next for this iconic sector of the Pacific Northwest economy. Molly Henry, a shareholder with Schwabe, Williamson, & Wyatt, moderated a discussion with Stephanie Jones Stebbins, the managing director of the Port of Seattle’s Maritime Division, and Vigor’s Business Development Manager Art Parker.

Parker noted that “growth is opportunity,” and that the Seattle metro region’s significant growth has positively impacted the maritime industry. For example, growth has helped Vigor, as a general increase in water activity has led to more work with Washington State Ferries. Stebbins shared examples about the helpful effects of growth for the Port as well, discussing the simultaneous growth of the cruise industry and an increasing popularity of Seattle as a destination.     

Both were frank about the flipside of this growth, such as noteworthy increases in the cost of construction. Parker added that as an employer, he also sees Vigor's workforce experiencing longer commutes to work as they are pushed farther away from the city by rising costs of living in Seattle.

Looking to the future, enacting policy that is positive for the industry is critical, Stebbins said. This includes policies that support freight. She also highlighted anticipation of the Port of Seattle plan for a new Maritime Innovation Center.

Parker pointed to coming technological change as well, including autonomous and electric vehicles. He also emphasized that regional leaders and residents should remember that “industrial jobs matter. Don’t squeeze us out or forget us in the tech forest. Support us. Be cognizant. We need the training facilities. We need the workforce.”

The Seattle Metro Chamber's Executive Speaker Series showcases the many business sectors that make up the economic engine driving the Seattle metropolitan region. Each event focuses on a unique industry and features top business leaders who discuss the successes, challenges and opportunities facing their sector.