SOUTH COAST — Sause Bros. is expanding its business.

The shipping company was recently awarded the ConnectOregon grant of $993,450 to build a new dry dock in Coos Bay. Not only will this allow Sause Bros. to do more business, fix more barges, but also bring in more jobs.

“We're doing a lot of our own ship repair in Coos Bay,” said Caitlin Sause, vice president of government and public affairs. “We're backlogged on other work before we can get to this project, but the state has been working with us to hold the grant while we go through that backlog. It's a good problem to have, but it means we have not been able to get that expansion under way as soon as we would hope.”

The expansion is projected to bring in at least 20 more jobs, but that number may go up depending on the market once the dry dock is finished.

Sause Bros. is also reorganizing parts of the business, which locally will only impact less than 10 of its 400 employees.

“We had employees in Coos Bay doing work and some of our customers moved or grew customers in other ports like San Francisco,” Sause said. “So we were using employees out of Coos Bay who should be based out of San Francisco. We're improving efficiency and, like any company, we have to go where our customers are.”

Expanding and bolstering the business along the west coast has been 10 years in the making. Now the company is increasing its presence in California's bay area, which means some employees will be relocating.

Though this is good news for local economy, Sause Bros. is also motivated to expand its business in places like California and Washington state after the port of Newport rejected a shipping deal for Silvan Bros. and Teevin Bros. contracts were denied.

“We were the barge company to do their work,” Sause said. “We were projecting to do more work on the Oregon coast with those deals and that has significantly decreased with the port commissioner's decision.”

Sause expressed her opinion that the contract rejection wasn't smart, because allowing the two companies in would have increased Newport's economy. Not only that, but she said some of the employees those businesses would have brought in would have been based out of the Coos Bay area.

“This decision is going to greatly reduce revenue to the port and people using the port,” she said. “It's a public port but now a port of exclusivity to one industry . . . the fishing industry.”

Though she said as a fisherman herself, she is sympathetic to the industry, “however ports can handle more than one industry and all along the west and east coasts ports have proven that.”

“It says to me that the port of Newport is saying it is closed for business unless you're one industry they like,” she said.

The World reached out to the port of Newport for comment. The port's general manager pro-tem, Aaron Bretz, explained that the contracts at the center of this dispute had terms within them that the port commission found unacceptable.

“As the port understood it, there was no more negotiating,” Bretz said. “There was disagreement on acceptable lease rates on the property and disagreement in terms of the loan for Silvan, as well as numerous other things.”

There was a group against the contracts, aside from the port commission, many of whom were fishermen.

“Most of the opposition came from users of the terminal,” Bretz said. “The concern was about still having access for the terminal in times of when they needed it the most. Folks need to understand that this is not a step away from shipping, just those deals which were not acceptable to the port.”

However, Sause said the company is going to have to rethink its strategy on the Oregon coast because “if it's not a friendly business environment, why would you want to do business here? The fact that the ports on the Oregon coast are not being friendly to business is disconcerting and it doesn't paint an optimistic picture for the tug industry.”

Through the contention with the port of Newport, Sause excluded the port of Coos Bay.

“I can't speak for other industries, but we haven't had any issues,” she said.

Bretz said the Newport port commission is still working its way through the rest of the deals with Silvan and Teevin Bros.

“The port of Newport is friendly for anyone who would like to do business and we are aware of the fact that there are those out there as they watch the situation who many not understand it, but we are open for business and welcome to as much as we can get,” he said.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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