On Tuesday, November 27, a group of business and labor leaders under the banner of the Northwest Jobs Alliance (NWJA) arrived at the Whatcom County Courthouse to deliver a petition with more than 10,000 signatures in support of the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project and the expansion of U.S. export capacity.
“By far these [signatures] are mostly local residents who want their voices to be heard,” said Chris Johnson, a local Laborers Union official and co-chair of the NWJA. “These aren’t people from California signing an online petition – these are real local folk, mostly from Whatcom County.”
Many of the petitions called upon government officials to bring the community together and get the project built in the most timely and beneficial way.
Resolutions and statements in support of the project from various civic leaders and from groups such as Washington Realtors, the NW Washington Central Labor Council, Washington State Labor council and the city of Ferndale, among others, were also delivered with the petitions.
“This reinforces the findings of recent polls that 59 percent of the voters of Whatcom and Skagit counties favor moving this project forward in a timely manner,” said Ken Oplinger, a Blaine city council member, business organization executive and co-chair of the NWJA. “People want to see family-wage jobs created under high environmental standards and they don’t think it has to be either/or.”
Land use and shoreline plans have long anticipated a fourth major industry and shipping pier at the Cherry Point heavy industrial area, according to Craig Cole, a former Whatcom County councilmember who was involved in shaping policies that govern the area. Cole now acts as a consultant to the GPT project.
“People want to know that planning actually means something and that economic growth is still possible if what you are proposing is consistent with those plans,” Cole said.
Johnson said that a highly skilled local workforce is desperate to get back to work building a new industrial job base at Cherry Point.
“We’ve got the people, the skills and the need,” he said, adding, “Too many people in Whatcom County are out of work and living in the shadow of their more fortunate neighbors. They want back into the middle class.”