Hundreds of high-paying jobs could soon be coming to Coos Bay after the Port of Coos Bay signed a memorandum of understanding with a Missouri company to build a shipping container facility at the port.
The MOU with NorthPoint Development is the first step in a multi-year process that could lead to 250 permanent jobs at the facility that will be built to hold and ship uo to 1 million, 40-foot containers every year.
"It's huge," said Margaret Barber, director of external affairs and business development at the port. "It's absolutely huge. We're ecstatic."
Barber said a different company approached the port about building a similar facility in the early 2000s, but that plan fell through when the economy collapsed.
She said the port of Coos Bay is an ideal location for a facility.
"We're really well located on the West Coast," she said. "We're by open water, and we have the rail facility."
The rail line is the key to the plans, and NorthPoint plans to bring ships loaded with containers into Coos Bay. The containers will be offloaded at the facility and shipped by rail to the rest of the state and region. The port purchased the rail line in 2009 and has been making improvements to it since. Barber said the port received two federal grants that will allow it to do more work to prepare the rail line. The rail spur on the North Spit will be extended to the project site and infrastructure improvements throughout the line will be completed to accommodate double stack container movements.
It is anticipated that construction of the facility will support approximately 500 short-term construction jobs and up to 250 permanent, full-time family wage jobs.
Barber said a lot of work went into getting this far in the plan, pointing to work Congressman Peter DeFazio has done to make improvements to the jetty in Coos Bay as well as funding to improve the rail line.
“I applaud the Port of Coos Bay and NorthPoint for partnering on the North Spit project,” said DeFazio. “This project will create hundreds of good-paying jobs on Oregon’s coast, which will boost Coos Bay’s local economy and provide needed support to rebuild the economic base for the region. I recently secured $32 million in the 2022 funding bill to support maintenance and improvements of the Coos Bay North Jetty. The more than $50 million I worked to obtain for the purchase and rehabilitation of the Coos Bay rail line also helped to make this possible. As chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I will continue to do everything within my power to support Oregon’s ports so that they remain competitive and continue to support our coastal economy.”
Barber said the project is in its early stages. With the MOU in place, the port and NorthPoint will finalize a contract by the end of the year. Once that is done, Barber said it will take at least two years to get the required permits and another two to three years for construction. It is estimated it will cost up to $1 billion for the project to be completed, the vast majorty being paid by NorthPoint.
“With the recent closure of the Georgia Pacific Mill and other recent job loss in southwestern Oregon, the port sees this as an opportunity to rebuild the economic base for the region,” said John Burns, port CEO. “This is a project that has the potential to diversify the region’s economy and create employment opportunities both for the existing workforce and for future generations.”
According to the Oregon Employment Department, Coos County has lost approximately 1,160 payroll jobs from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021.
The project also has the potential to play a big role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon by eliminating the need to move almost all materials via truck. It could also ease congestion at ports along the West Coast.
Congestion at major west coast ports has continued to worsen for decades, creating bottlenecks that slow the movement of goods and increase greenhouse gas emissions. NorthPoint views the Coos Bay harbor as an opportunity to create an environmentally conscious, state-of-the-art gateway which will alleviate congestion throughout the west coast and improve the movement of goods in and out of the United States and international markets.
“The Coos Bay Harbor offers an innovative solution to an ever-growing global challenge,” said Chad Meyer, president and founding partner of NorthPoint. “We have an opportunity to enhance the economy of the region while improving the logistics system as a whole.”
The new terminal will promote expedited turn time and eliminate anchoring for maritime vessels, a shipping option greatly needed in the marketplace. As of August 29, the ports of L.A. and Long Beach had 47 vessels anchored offshore waiting to berth. Anchored vessels add significant costs in shipping, delays in product delivery and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
"From an environmental perspective, rail is a lot better," Barber said. "There's up to 70% less greenhouse gases moving by rail. The beauty of what NorthPoint is looking to do is they want to build a state-of-the-art facility."
That would include moving material with electric trucks, rather than diesel.
Barber said the facility would be located on a 200-acre parcel just off the North Spit. NorthPoint is currently negotiating with the property owner about buying the land.
The port also continues work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other regulatory agencies on the channel modification project. This project will deepen and widen the federally authorized channel from 37 feet to 45 feet and widen it from 300 feet to 450 feet. Deepening and widening the channel is necessary for the port to remain competitive in the global marketplace as ocean carriers continue to utilize larger ships, a trend that has continued for well over a half century.
"This is huge," Barber said. "These are going to be jobs that are high-paying jobs. It will have a huge impact here."