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Monday | 20 April, 2009 | 2:39 am

Great in 2008

By Modern Metals' staff

April 2009 - Last year wasn't friendly to many businesses, as only a handful experienced growth. Even fewer could boast about their revenue after a calendar year that saw the United States slide into its worst economic lull since the Great Depression.

However, for one operation tucked away along the Columbia River corridor in southwest Washington State, it was a banner year. The Port of Longview , Longview, Wash., reported record-setting revenue figures for 2008, thanks to a surge in wind energy cargo handling. In 2009, the port continues to progress as it incorporates a grain terminal and anticipates the continuation of its primary business.

Right place, right time, right equipment
Undoubtedly, part of the Port of Longview's success can be attributed to a shift in energy supply, with an emphasis on wind power, throughout North America.

But the port wasn't simply a lucky benefactor, reaping business success as a byproduct of a trend gaining steam. Rather, it made a few subtle yet savvy business moves that ultimately paid off. In July, it added a Liebherr LHM 500S mobile harbor crane to its facility, anticipating a spike in wind energy cargo. The crane's ability to handle more than 100 metric tons made it an asset, particularly with more than 1 million metric tons of total cargo making its way through the harbor each of the past two years.

"The new crane will enhance the port's current services and add a new dimension to cargo handling on the dock and in the terminal," said Valerie Harris, director of marketing, at the time of its arrival. "Ultimately, it is our goal to make it easy for customers to conduct business at the Port of Longview."

Harris' words proved prophetic, as business was conducted at an accelerated rate over the following six months. The port recorded a 16 percent overall increase in total cargo handled, fueled by a 29 percent spike in bulk cargos, steel, logs and wind energy cargo. The wind energy business even picked up the slack for the usually reliable tonnage imports, which were down 26 percent for the year.

Port-able success
The port reached or surpassed a number of benchmarks in 2008. Its $23.4 million operating revenue was an all-time high and the first in its history to exceed $20 million. The 26 percent increase in revenue from 2007 represented a record and led to a net operating revenue rise of more than 100 percent before depreciation. Those are the kind of numbers that allow for otherwise risky moves to be made in a less-than-stable economy.

"The commission is extremely pleased with the port's performance," said Port of Longview Commission Chairman Dan Buell upon receiving the 2008 numbers. "We feel 2008 has positioned us well to weather the uncertain economic climate."

The port should thrive again in 2009. Soon to be added is a grain terminal featuring the first export grain elevator built in the United States in more than 25 years. Given the milling industry's influence in the region surrounding Longview, it's an addition that's likely to further boost revenue.

More important, the well-positioned Port of Longview remains a hub for wind energy cargo transport, for which there will likely be a sustained demand. Most Americans are receptive to the changes that need to be made in terms of energy generation and consumption, and those changes will be reflected by the cargo that continues to make its way along the Columbia River. MM

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