Port of Port Angeles commissioners raised questions of how to encourage family wage jobs on the peninsula at an Aug. 22 strategic planning workshop.
But commissioners could not agree what a family wage figure looks like.
Commissioner George Schoenfeldt said the term is broadly defined and asked if $10 to $13 an hour was considered family wage, or if it were closer to $16 to $18 an hour.
“I have no idea what number to put on it,” Commissioner Jim McEntire said. “Maybe we should establish a range.”
McEntire said he knows some families have to combine two incomes to get by and acquire things like houses or businesses.
McEntire said manufacturing and timber jobs tend to be higher-earning positions and the port should focus on a specific segment for family wage job creation.
“Someone making $10 an hour is buying food and shelter,” Schoenfeldt said. “People making $18 an hour are buying houses and cars.”
While there is no set definition for Washington, some studies try to pinpoint what wage would support a family and what wage would put them in poverty.
According to a study by Pennsylvania State University titled “Poverty In America,” a living wage for a Clallam County household with two adults and two children is $23.09 an hour. The Economic Policy Institute, a national nonprofit for the study of the economy, calculates the wage needed for a family of four to meet basic needs in rural Washington is $20.11 an hour.
Several members of the public who spoke at the workshop encouraged the commissioners to look at what other port cities like Bellingham, Anacortes and Bremerton are doing to support economic development.
Kent Myers, city manager of Port Angeles, said Anacortes cleaned up and renovated the downtown and waterfront, as did Bellingham.
“These places see economic development in the broadest way possible,” he said.
Commissioner John Calhoun said the challenge of updating the port’s strategic plan, which occurs every year as part of the budgeting process, is setting priorities while being inclusive and practical.
“The key is recognizing partnerships that are necessary to accomplish economic development,” he said.
The commissioners agreed enhancing waterfront property for economic development should be added as an objective as well as supporting renewable energy efforts by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Marine Sciences Laboratory.
McEntire called the Battelle lab “one of the crown jewels of my district.”
The port also is partnering with Angeles Composite Technologies Inc. to expand the company’s composites campus near the airport on Port Angeles. The expansion will add an estimated 100 jobs upon completion.
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