According to its mission statement, the Port of Kalama’s goal is “to induce capital investment in an environmentally responsible manner to create jobs and to enhance public recreational opportunities.” Since expansion has revealed a less-than-complete commitment to hiring locally at the grain mill facilities that lay along the Columbia River, the Longview-Kelso Building and Construction Trades Council has been demonstrating outside of the Washington port demanding that leaders live up to the mission of helping the local economy by contracting companies that will employ the region’s tradesmen and women.
According to Cowlitz County planning officials, Temco is planning a $50 million expansion, building eight to 12 new storage silos, new rail lines and new conveyor belts. Temco is the latest Columbia River terminal to expand following the 2010 deepening of the Columbia River channel that allows ships to carry larger loads of bulk cargo.
Two companies are in the running for the general construction contract, according to the unions and Longview-based contractor JH Kelly. Borton LC of Kansas has said it would hire Kelly to do about 85 percent of the work, including concrete, structural steel, electrical, piping and millwright work, Kelly officials said.
“It would be a good opportunity for us because it’s local, and it’s a year-and-a-half long job,” Terry Major, Kelly’s senior vice president, said in a telephone interview after the rally. He estimated the Temco expansion would support more than 100 union jobs for Kelly.
The demonstrators’ raison d’etre goes beyond the jobs themselves: they are fighting for the effect on the local economy when workers’ wages are shipped out of town:
The trade unions are still smarting because they feel they were left out of the construction of the EGT terminal in Longview. The local union halls reported little activity during the 18-month construction period of the EGT terminal because general contractor Ibberson hired a large percentage of the 300 workers from outside the region, union officials said.
Out-of-town workers “are bringing (money) home. It doesn’t stay in the community. Somehow we need to get local people working,” said Butch Willman, business manager for Longview-based Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 791.
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