Hello, Pier 12: A dedicated community space for the 12s

When speaking to voters around King County, I always ask, “What do you know about the Port of Seattle?” The most common responses are: “The Port is responsible for the wall of containers,” or “The cranes that inspired the design for AT-AT snow walker in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (btw, squash this urban legend now and the actual rumor started at the Port of Oakland); “The Port manages the airport,” and infamously, “The Port is the group that blocked the Sonics arena from being built in SODO.”

The not-so-obvious answer is that the Port is an economic development agency for King County, managing the approximately 4,000 acres of property to include Fishermen's Terminal, Shilshole Bay Marina, and the many other facilities around the 39 cities in the county that collectively creates thousands of jobs and pumps billions of dollars into the regional economy. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), the Port of Seattle’s most significant operation in capital assets and revenue, is a key gateway to the Pacific Northwest and has a regional economic impact of over $16.3 billion. Sea-Tac generates more than 171,796 jobs (109,924 direct jobs) representing more than $2.8 billion in direct earnings and $565 million in state and local taxes.

In the Port’s over 100-year existence, it has loyally served partners in the maritime, fishing, and aviation industries. Additionally, the Port has in place a strong operational infrastructure that spearheads many environmental and notable sustainability strategic efforts in North America. However, as a public agency, the Port needs to prioritize the people and invest in the culture of King County to balance the industry boom with the human reality.

The next set of Port Commissioners are faced with many challenges, but the ones that matter the most for King County are job creation, affordability, and community culture. For example, Boeing just announced another round of layoffs; Jeff Bezos’ spaceship company, Blue Origin based in Kent, picked Alabama to manufacture the NexGen BE-4 engines for his rockets costing King County 340 manufacturing jobs and $200 million in capital investment for the county; Seattle reached the 700,000-population mark (there was approximately 500,000 people in the Seattle area before the Sonics were taken away from our community); leases are increasing for businesses that have served neighborhoods for decades and the people who built the city are being pushed out. If elected as Commissioner, the initial changes I will lead is to protect the social health of our community and boost entrepreneurial creativity through the establishment of both “King County Social Heritage” and “Moon Shoot Innovation” program policies.

There are many ways to fund these programs, but the main source will be similar to the Port Art Fund Policy where an allocated percentage cost for art will be derived from capital projects.

Example Port of Seattle Cost Estimate allocating 2.9% or $50,000 to art on Total Program Costs for the Terminal 115 Public Access Project

King County is home to the world’s leading manufacturing companies, disruptive e-commerce businesses, and technology startups, yet the Port is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The Port of Seattle should be proactive in innovation and setting the example instead of falling in the shadows of innovation-leading port authorities around the world, such as Rotterdam and Singapore which are focused on investing in ways for their Port Authorities to be smarter, more efficient, and sustainable.

“Innovation flows through Rotterdam, like the water through the Maas,” a poetic entrepreneur once said. Port of Rotterdam leads innovation. Read more here

In 2014, the Port won a $20 million federal grant to boost the productivity in Terminal 46. What this means is that the added investment in modernization and efficiency can create additional space capacity at a prime location along the Seattle waterfront. To align with the City of Seattle’s Waterfront Seattle Program, I would like to see the Port Commission find a way to dedicate Port properties along the waterfront, such as the additional space that can be gained when the T46 lease is up in 2025 or Pier 69, for public innovation and community enrichment.

While there are near-term issues to address such as the growth of the airport and maintaining high customer service levels in port businesses, the vision I would pursue as Commissioner is the Pier 12 concept.

Pier 12 is a ‘blue ocean’ strategic innovation community space that intersects investment in community-centric policies (hyper-local) with the future of commerce (hyper-forward) in order to address the challenges outlined above. Four areas covered in Pier 12 include:

  1. Investment in innovation hub, leveraging the approach of a private-public-academic partnership. The Port should lead the establishment of a plan to get ahead of high-tech innovations that will impact transportation and trade in the Puget Sound, such as: space commercialization, high-speed rail (maglev), unmanned cargo aircraft, and modernization of terminal operations among other trending fishing and transportation systems.
A view of the New Shepard crew capsule from Blue Origin. Credit: Blue Origin

There is a growing supply chain to be captured in the projected $300 billion annual revenue for the Ultra Low Cost Access to Space market alone. Washington State already has over 1,400 aerospace companies that earned approximately $94.7 billion in business revenue in 2015 contributing to nearly $22 billion in wages and 242,800 jobs.

2) Commitment to Transparency. Deploy an Open Data initiative that entails our Port operations data readily available & accessible (fast) for the public. Releasing this data will not only strengthen Public trust, but also help Port operations be more efficient. Furthermore, in a 2013 McKinsey report, open data can help unlock approximately $3 trillion in economic value globally. Initiating a Port Open Data policy for the public to access will enable the community to develop new technologies that could be viable businesses to eventually offer to other Ports, business, and/or government agencies, ultimately boosting our regional economy.

3) Partnership with the City of Seattle and housing authorities to support affordable housing. Affordability in Seattle is outrageous. It strikes me that we have the wealthiest people in the world living in our county, where people in the tech industry are making a six-figure starting salary, yet we have homelessness at a plaguing rise. Part of having a healthy environment thus a strong economy is looking after the quality of life of the community. The Port Commission should take an altruistic approach and offer mixed income housing to the community on Port property. I’m a believer of proactive collaboration and not reinventing the wheel. The Port should integrate and adapt the ‘Livability Playbook’ established by civic collaboration of 200+ people for the May 2017 FullConTech hosted by the Washington Technology Industry Association. Housing and affordability are imminent threats to our economy and the Port has a role to contribute to solve this crisis.

4) Back to the basics approach of uniting through sports. Seattle is one of the largest sports cities in the United States. With the additional 200,000 new residents there is an opportunity to bridge the new residents with the veteran Seattleites through a unified effort and focus towards the return of the Supersonics and possibly a NHL team. The recent study conducted by the University of Washington Evan’s School of Public Policy indicates that the SODO arena yields three times greater tax revenue than the Key Arena and is ‘shovel ready.’ As the only candidate in the race who is laser focused on the immediate return of the Supersonics and strong proponent of the SODO Arena, instead of spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on public funds for consultants that have been shaping an overblown narrative to sway City Council and the public against SODO, I would allocate funds to the Seattle Sports Commission to support the Supersonics initiative. The narrative that has unfortunately been ignored is how the SODO basketball arena comes at the expense of communities living and working in the Chinatown and International District and South Seattle neighborhoods with urban sprawl. Even though the Seattle City Council approved upzone has already compromised these neighborhoods, as Commissioner, I would strengthen the support to these communities and allocate resources to protect the culture and heritage that was built by the hands of many migrant families that cannot be forgotten. I believe there is a way to harmonize the logic that makes SODO the best location for a basketball arena and the impacted neighborhoods surrounding the stadium district. Ultimately, the importance of unifying our community is invaluable and the sooner we can bring the Sonics back, the better for our local culture and economy.

Our city is transforming in a direction reminiscent of the change in San Francisco – where commerce and growth pushed working class people out. Growth can be seen as good for industry but not at the expense of people, not here in Seattle. Elected officials and industry leaders in Seattle should think twice before signing away the grit of the city to new suits. There’s a way to balance all the changes but it will take more brainpower, ‘outside the box’ moves, unyielding empathy, and running that extra mile to serve the people.

I humbly request your vote by August 1st and support to keep Bea on the ballot for the General Election this November. I’ll be your candidate who will stand up to the status quo and prioritize the cultural health of the community, while maintaining the strength of industries through adoption of innovation.

Bea Querido-Rico is an engineer with 12 years of industry experience mainly at the Boeing company. Before running for Port commissioner, she worked at the Port of Seattle in Airport Operations and Strategic Planning. Her biggest endorsements come from the kickass innovation and civic-tech champions. She is proud to receive the endorsement of Pacific Hyperloop,Women's Political Caucus of Washington State, and the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest. Learn more at www.rockitbea.com

Bell Harbor Credit: Port of Seattle
Terminal 18 Credit: Port of Seattle