In 1911, the Washington state legislature authorized the formation of port districts for purposes related to transportation — including marine, rail and air — and to advance development of industrial properties. Since the original legislation, the authority of port districts has been increased to include development of commercial activities, implementation of foreign trade zones and the building and operation of tourism facilities as an economic stimulus. Formed at the grass roots local level, ports are special purpose districts voted in by residents of a defined geographic area, intended to bring local control over targeted investment that promotes commerce and economic assets on behalf of the local communities. As of 2012, there are 75 port districts operating in 33 of the 39 counties in Washington, more than in any other state in the nation.
Once formed, port districts are governed by an elected board of commissioners who set the direction for the district, which is then carried out and implemented by port district staff. Funding for port activities can come from a variety of sources. Each port district has a general tax levy that is established by the commission and assessed on property within the district’s boundaries. Additionally, as developers of industrial property, port districts can charge for services, and can collect lease and rental income from tenants of their property. Ports also have the authority to issue either general obligation bonds or revenue bonds to fund their activities.
The Washington Public Ports Association (WPPA) was formed by the Legislature in 1961 to help promote the interests of the port community through effective government relations, ongoing education and strong advocacy programs. Ports provide numerous contributions to our state’s economy and quality of life, and are proud to be advocates of continued prosperity and job growth in our communities.
For more on the powers and governing requirements of port districts, visit this page from the Revised Code of Washington.