Port of Kennewick race heats up

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldOctober 15, 2013 

Leo Bowman and Tom Moak say experience sets them apart from each other in the race for a seat on the Port of Kennewick.

Moak says his 12 years on the Kennewick City Council and his involvement in the projects important to the port, including Columbia Drive and Vista Field, qualify him to shepherd those projects forward.

Bowman says his 16 years as a Benton County commissioner will help the port find grants for projects and for land use designation changes, such as West Richland's efforts to include the Tri-City Raceway land in the city's urban growth area.

Both are asking voters to elect them Nov. 5 to a six-year term on the commission with the job of driving economic development in Kennewick, West Richland, Finley, south Richland and Benton City.

Port commissioners earn $1,075 monthly starting next year, plus $104 for each meeting they attend.

Leo Bowman

The port's purpose is to bring in new, high-wage jobs to the community, Bowman told the Herald. Whether the jobs are medical or industrial, they help retail and commercial businesses, he said.

"The three highest priorities are jobs, jobs and family wage jobs," Bowman said. He said those jobs should pay a minimum of about $50,000 a year. Bowman, 74, of Richland, says his background as a small business owner of an auto repair shop for 32 years also will could help the port. He retired from the county commission at the end of last year.

He said he is keeping his mind open on the port's current projects, such as Columbia Drive, Vista Field and the raceway property in West Richland. It's important to wait to make a decision until all the information is in, he said.

The port needs to prioritize projects, but it also needs to be flexible enough to switch gears in case opportunities arise, Bowman said.

Port commissioners recently discussed looking for new property in south Richland now that their Spaudling Business Park is nearly full. But Bowman said he's not sure if the port's money would be better spent on stimulating development and jobs on property the port already owns instead of buying more land.

Tom Moak

Moak, 60, of Kennewick, said the port always should be looking at additional properties that would enhance the port's mission to create jobs and fits in with the port's portfolio.

But Moak, manager of the Kennewick main branch of Mid-Columbia Libraries, said his biggest concern is to make sure the port can develop its existing projects.

"I think the port has its hands full," he said.

Columbia Drive and Vista Field have great potential to be signature projects, he said.

On Columbia Drive, Moak said the port needs to see something built soon.

And with Vista Field, the port needs to chip away at the project, form a working group with representatives from the port, Kennewick and others and to make sure that it is communicating its progress and issues, he said.

Moak said knowledge of the projects and his relationships with the city and the port can help push them forward.

"My job is to not let personalities get in the way of progress," he said.

-- For more election stories, visit tricityherald.com/election.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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