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Port of Portland director to visit SOREDI

The Port of Portland generated more than $260 million in revenue in 2015, 70 percent from Portland International Airport operations.

Revenue is expected to keep rising with a boost from Cathay Pacific Cargo, which is beginning twice-weekly 747 flights to Hong Kong in October. Daily international flights have grown from one, to Vancouver, B.C., in 2001 to 10 departures, Port of Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt said.

That's just one of the components Wyatt will touch on when he visits community leaders Tuesday at an event hosted by Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. in Medford. Wyatt is touring the state, providing updates on the port, established by the Oregon Legislature 125 years ago, and the Portland airport, which opened 75 years ago. The agency is the largest owner of industrial land in the state.

"We're not tax-supported, but we are a creature of the law," Wyatt said.

The port became a focal point of discussion among global shippers around the state when Terminal 6, where international container traffic was loaded and unloaded, was closed. Although Portland handled a tiny sliver of the West Coast container traffic, the loss was still felt by Oregon companies, who had to develop workarounds.

Wyatt pointed to global overcapacity as a key factor in the terminal's demise.

"Even when Terminal 6 was up and running full tilt, two-thirds to three-fourths of the shippers were going to Seattle or Tacoma because there were better and more diverse ocean connections. When you have one Trans-Pacific service with a limited number of Asian points you can touch, it's hard to compete."

Huge auto transporters still deliver and pick up at the port's three auto terminals.

"Not only do autos come in from Asia, but we have Fords going to China that are brought in by rail and shipped from here," he said.

The Port of Portland may be the convergence for much of the state's cargo and freight activity, but the 300-mile trek often makes Oakland, Calif., a more inviting option for Rogue Valley shippers.

It's nearly 300 miles to the Columbia River terminals and 415 miles to Tacoma, Wash. The trip to Oakland is 360 miles.

"When you're dealing with ocean containers," Wyatt said, "Oakland isn't that much farther away. They do have their own congestion issues, and the hours of service regulations for truckers are challenging, but Oakland provides a good range of service areas to South America, Asia or Europe."

Whether it's Portland or other ports of call, common carriers are looking for ways to carry freight on return, or multiple-city trips.

"It's the ground zero of logistics," Wyatt said. "Whether trying to create some kind of two-way traffic for truckers and ocean carriers, that's where the bulk of the energy is being spent to generate revenue two ways."

Wyatt cited how Lowe's Home Improvement's distribution center in Lebanon as an example of what can happen. Trucks delivering the company's international cargo containers from Puget Sound returned empty for years.

"We sat down with Lowe's and convinced them to load trucks with freight from the Willamette Valley so they can generate revenue in both directions," Wyatt said. "It's great for the carriers and shippers. It's an example of the hand-to-hand combat in the world of global logistics. I'm guessing the Harry & Davids of the world would like nothing better than to generate two-way traffic, lower shipping costs and positioning empty containers."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/EconomicEdge.