About $1 Million Will Spur Ferry Development
October 2, 2007
BELLINGHAM — The Port of Bellingham will get state money to help create an Innovation Partnership Zone for development and manufacture of high-speed, low-wake passenger ferries in cooperation with private firms.
Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Monday that the port’s proposal is one of five selected to share $4,275,000 in state money set aside in the 2007- 2009 state budget to help launch innovative development projects. About 25 communities around the state were seeking a share of the money.
“Washington is home to some of the greatest innovations in the world and I am excited to support the continued success of our state’s world-class companies,” Gregoire said in a press release.
Port Executive Director Jim Darling said the port expects to get about $1 million from the program. The Bellingham project is meant to spur development of a new generation of passenger ferries that could be manufactured here, creating new high-wage jobs.
All American Marine, which manufactures small passenger vessels in its Fairhaven plant, already has joined the partnership, but the effort is wide open to other firms, Darling said.
Western Washington University and Bellingham Technical College also will be partners in the effort, with the university providing technological expertise while the college trains workers. Among other things, the research and development effort will use the university’s expertise in composite materials.
“It’s really lab to market,” Darling said.
The port envisions remodeling a portion of the waterfront tissue warehouse, originally built by Georgia-Pacific Corp., to house the training and research facility.
Another Bellingham boat builder, Aluminum Chambered Boats, is discussing possible rental of a portion of the portowned warehouse for expanded manufacturing facilities. The 250,000-square-foot building has enough room for both, Darling said.
G-P, which has been leasing the warehouse from the port, expects to vacate it about three months after the company shuts down its waterfront tissue mill in December.
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