The Port of Vancouver USA is in good shape to be a leader not only in the handling of imported wind energy cargo, but also the creation of new jobs and economic development for the community.

Executive Director Larry Paulson said the port had felt some economic pain, but was in good shape entering what he sees as a promising 2009.

In his state of the port address, Paulson announced a three-year extension to an existing contract with Vestas Wind Systems, which includes options for extending the contract. He also announced an agreement in principal on a new two-year contract with Siemens Energy.

The Siemens contract is subject to management approval, which is expected next week.

The work that comes with these agreements is expected to provide 235 jobs and $20 million in economic value to the community.

Port of Vancouver crews have been handling Vestas cargo since 2000. The port has been operating under an exclusive agreement with Vestas, the global leader in wind energy components since 2006. The exclusive agreement makes Vancouver the only Columbia River port to handle Vestas cargo.

The agreement with Siemens also provides exclusivity in the Columbia River for the Port of Vancouver.

“These agreements are critically important to the port,” Paulson said. “They provide jobs and revenue for our community, and we’re very proud to announce these agreements.

“It’s most definitely an exciting time for the port, and for Vancouver,” Paulson added.

In the summer of 2008, the port anticipated growth in wind energy cargo for 2009 and the port commission authorized purchase of a second mobile harbor crane. That crane, which matches the port’s first one – purchased in 2006 – is currently being shipped to the port. Its arrival is expected on March 15.

Paulson also reported the more-or-less positive economic health of the port, during the event, themed “Anchoring the Economy”.

“I’m not here today to deliver a gloom-and-doom address,” Paulson said. “In fact, just the opposite – I’m here today to report that we are weathering the storm of our economic times, and actually helping anchor the economy of Vancouver, Clark County and Southwest Washington.

“It is not without some pain on our part,” he added, “but mostly it is with a promise for a brighter future.”

Paulson pointed to examples of construction companies that had work because of the port’s projects, despite an economy that has construction starts at a low point. He also reported on property development for a future green energy light industrial park, the port’s fifth marine terminal (Terminal 5, on the former Alcoa Aluminum smelting property), and the West Vancouver Freight Access project that will allow the port to handle freight trains of more than 7,000 feet in length inside its own facilities.

While Paulson shared some declining cargo numbers, he also shared positive news that the port had handled more Subaru vehicles in 2008 than it had in several years, and that new cargos, including malt exports, are moving across the port.

Earlier in the event, Nancy Baker, president of the port commission shared touching stories of people who had been affected by the stormy economic times.

“I realized this wasn’t just something happening on the evening news or happening somewhere else in this country,” Baker said. “These are our friends and neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet.

“Your elected port commissioners are working to provide the port staff with the tools and resources it needs to do the development to keep this port growing, thriving and creating sustainable employment opportunities for this community.”