The Astoria-Warrenton area has seen a renaissance of economic development and revitalization in the last decade. Astoria has blossomed into a beautiful riverfront community with a variety of businesses including unique boutique-style shops in its downtown core. Many historic buildings and homes in Astoria have been lovingly renovated, many to their original Victorian-era inspired facades. Long-vacant buildings are being re-purposed and bringing new businesses and jobs to the community.
Warrenton, with its ample available land for development of new business and residential construction, has seen a surge of new openings of major stores providing jobs and opportunities to the area. The City of Warrenton has developed a master plan for its downtown core and work is ahead of schedule with some businesses eagerly set to work.
TIMBER & FISHING
Written by Jeffrey Nelson
Clatsop County’s economy continues to thrive due to tourism, a mix of old and new businesses, and two tried and true major industries: fishing and logging.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports that the economic impact of commercial fishing in 2012 totaled 18.6 percent of all earned income in Clatsop County. According to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), Astoria – like many west coast fishing communities – historically identifies salmon as its primary catch, but catches have expanded to now include groundfish, sardines, tuna, shrimp and crab.
Local fish processor Steve Fick says it’s not just the value of the fish, but the rollover effect. On one day, Fishhawk Fisheries purchased 52,000 pounds of fish at a total cost of $130,000. Fishermen are paid an average of $2.50 per pound based on different grades of fish. This example translates to a rollover impact of nearly half a million dollars in just one day. “Every day that we can produce product, sell a product, keep people employed and buy fish from fishermen, that gives them employment (and creates) the infrastructure that needs support. We need to buy gloves, go buy rain gear … trucking companies that haul freight and packing companies. The more product you run through this port, the more benefit it is economically to the region.”
Fishhawk Fisheries has 25 employees at peak times and eight or nine year round. “It’s the smallest plant on the Columbia River.” Bornstein’s, Pacific Coast Seafoods and Ilwaco Fish, on the other hand, employ well over a hundred people. Bell Buoy Crab in Chinook employs 35 to 40. “They’re all big employers in this community … your local fishermen fish for the non-fishing public.” He says Columbia River fish are consumed all over: “We create a lot of interesting opportunities for restaurants both this region and throughout the country and the world.”
Fick also says that recreational charter boat tours provide seasonable opportunities to bring visitors to the coast. Like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Fick says that fish plant tours add to the local tourism industry, and that commercial fishing creates a “fabric within a community.” Money spent on lodging, transportation and food in Clatsop County from recreational fishing totaled $1.5 million in 2008, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Statewide, ODFW cites a total of about $210 million in personal income generated from commercial fish landings. ODFW fisheries education specialist David Lane cites the economic impact of recreational fishing in Clatsop County as $11.2 million from freshwater fishing, $5.8 million from saltwater fishing and $6.7 million from shellfishing.
Logging is the other historic mainstay industry in Clatsop. The state and county own 28 percent of the timberlands in Clatsop County while 72 percent lie in private hands. Clatsop Economic Development Resources Executive Director Kevin Leahy reports that forest sector jobs comprise 11.5 percent of employment in the county. Clatsop holds a little less than one percent of the state’s population, but boasts 2.2 percent of the state forest sector jobs. The Oregon Forest Resources Institute reports that Oregon coast forests make up about 30 percent of the county’s economic base.
State timber revenue makes up a large part of the annual Clatsop County budget. Timber revenue totals $3 million under the county’s 2013-2014 fiscal year budget. That’s a $334,000 increase in timber revenue which goes to the county’s Special Projects Fund. From information provided by the County Tax Assessor’s office, timber tax revenue to all taxing districts in the county was reported at $9.3 million for 2011, $11.8 million for 2012 and $10.9 million year-to date in 2013. Leahy concludes these are critical dollars needed to fund our schools, Clatsop Community College, Law Enforcement, Roads, the Port of Astoria, Clatsop Care Center, Sunset Empire Transportation and other special districts.
Georgia-Pacific’s Wauna Mill is located in Clatsop County and is the county’s largest employer. 980 people work at Wauna; that’s 43 percent of Georgia Pacific’s employees in Oregon. Indirect jobs created by GP in Wauna and surrounding communities total 4,560. The mill is strategically located next to the Columbia River and in a timber impacted, rural area. As such, it’s a prime location for water and land transportation, as well as rich soil beds for growing cottonwood trees for top of the line paper products.
Hampton Lumber Mill in Warrenton has an annual production capacity of 200 million board feet. According to CEDR’s Kevin Leahy, Hampton has 150 full-time equivalent employees in Clatsop County which does not include loggers, truckers of lumber/residuals, and other non-directs, which would add to these totals.
Nygaard Logging, owned by founder Martin Nygaard and family, is one of the largest private timber companies in Clatsop County. According to its website, Nygaard Logging’s Warrenton Fiber employs 120 people. Four million dollars in direct payroll dollars are generated annually. Seven million dollars in additional dollars are spent with local businesses and subcontractors.
Gustafson Logging of Astoria has an annual payroll of $14.7 million, which includes monies paid to full-time contractors. There are 25 full-time employees. The number swells to 40 or 50 when including contractors.
At the Port of Astoria, Westerlund Log Handlers partners with the Port to export logs from pier one to Asian markets. The sorting yard nicely complements the cruise ship trade, as scheduling allows cruise ships to debark visitors at the same pier one location and watch firsthand as barked and debarked logs are sorted for upcoming log ships. It all gels nicely and provides tourists with one more sight to see during their visit. As of February 2013, the log operation netted the Port $1.9 million from 26 log ships, helping fulfill the Port’s self-described role as the “economic engine for Clatsop County.”
ARTS DRIVE ECONOMY
Written by Jeffrey Nelson
The arts community helps keep the greater Astoria-Warrenton area alive with commerce and tourism year round. Teri Sund, owner of Imogen Gallery on 11th Street in downtown Astoria, calls the art community a “very vibrant community and definitely a huge part of Astoria.” Astoria, in fact, is becoming known as a destination for art, bringing collectors from far and wide. This means big business for hotels, restaurants, coffee houses and other merchants.
One example is the second Saturday of the month Artwalk in downtown Astoria, where residents and visitors can visit merchants and galleries, view art produced in a variety of media and sample wine and food. The Second Saturday Artwalk has been held for about six years now, featuring the participation of eight to 20 galleries and merchants per month.
During the past 25 years, the nonprofit Astoria Visual Arts Association, in downtown Astoria, has worked to promote art in the community. Board member Margaret Thierry says AVA’s mission is to update the art scene. “When we do have a gallery space, we can give shows to upcoming artists that for-profit galleries can’t support.” The adjacent Astoria Fiber Arts Academy is a very successful commercial project of AVA. AVA also supported the third year of “open studios,” that took place at the end of July, 2013. The mural of Fort Astoria depicted near Fort George Brewery on Duane Street is an AVA project. The 2003 mural is the work of local artists Roger McKay and Sally Lackaff. Thierry says AVA has given the start to many local artists including Roger Hayes, Darren Orange, Nicholas Knapton and Jessica Schleif.
Astoria is the locale for many films. The art of motion pictures first paid us a visit in 1908 for the filming of “The Fisherman’s Bride.” “Goonies” – shot here in 1984 – is the most well known of all movies highlighting Astoria. The film is highlighted prominently at the Oregon Film Museum, now housed in the old Clatsop County Jail. Television is no stranger to Astoria either. Most recently, actor Michael C. Hall came to town to film scenes for the final episode of the Showtime series “Dexter.” A resident’s house in the Alderbrook neighborhood of east Astoria was used for exterior shots.
The seasonal Astoria Sunday Market features the work of many artists in a variety of media. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2000. According to executive director Cyndi Mudge, “The Astoria Sunday Market was formed to revitalize historic downtown Astoria and to improve the economic viability and vitality of farmers, artists, artisans and other small business operators in the Pacific Northwest.” Mudge says the Market has grown to become a regular gathering place for locals, an attraction for tourists and an incubator for small business development. Up to 200 vendors offer their wares each week. Products are locally made, grown, created or gathered by farmers, craftsmen and artisans.
Astoria’s new Chinese Interpretive Park – located in the heart of downtown at Heritage Square – is the latest example of art at its finest. The “Garden of Surging Waves” honors and celebrates the Chinese heritage that played a vital role in founding the Astoria community. The park is the City of Astoria’s bicentennial legacy gift; it shares an important piece of Astoria’s history and marks the 200th anniversary of the city’s founding (1811-2011). Portland urban designer Suenn Ho continues to lead the design team on the project, which began active construction in early 2013.