The Port of Bellingham is working to put the city of Blaine on the map – literally.
With help from their new Whatcom Prospector website (whatcomprospector.com), the port’s economic development specialists (EDS) are helping businesses from across the country and Canada find their way into the Whatcom County market.
“Most people [who want to buy or relocate] want to get information about an area online before they pick up the phone,” said economic development specialist John Michener. “They do a lot of research before they ever make a call.”
Because of this, the port has designed their website to be an interactive search system that maps an aggregation of commercial land and buildings for sale or lease throughout the county.
It provides demographic information on the areas and includes heat maps that designate the density of population, consumer expenses and the available labor force. “Commercial listings are automatically uploaded to the website so that realtors don’t have to take an extra step,” Michener said. “The site is geared toward national site selectors so they can get the most amount of information in the least amount of time.”
Listing on the site is not just limited to realtors – anyone who has commercial property for sale or lease can add their information, Michener added. The site also has extensive community profiles to help buyers get a feel for the community they might be moving into.
Whatcom Prospector helps fulfill the port’s mandate to foster economic development, transportation and job creation throughout the county, said Dodd Snodgrass, an EDS for the port.
Snodgrass and Michener said that the tool is great for areas like Blaine, because it highlights the benefits potential buyers would receive by choosing to relocate there.
“The port is directly invested in the city of Blaine. We own the marina, we’ve been involved for a number of years and we meet with city manager Gary Tomsic every month,” Snodgrass said. “We devote a lot of time getting to know the business community and making site visits to existing manufacturers to see how we can help. Part of the role John and I play is to act as a clearinghouse and help make contacts. Then we get out of the way and let people do what they do best.”
Michener said there has been a quite bit of interest from potential businesses to relocate to Blaine, given its location and the benefits of being part of a foreign trade zone (FTZ). “I think it’s only a matter of time before we see a lot more moves there,” he said.
And while the port is interested in new business for the community, they are even more concerned about keeping current business owners happy and helping them grow in any way they can, Michener said.
“Supporting who we already have is money much better spent,” Snodgrass added. “It’s important to take care of the businesses that have already invested in the community.”