Good afternoon.
Welcome to the State of the Port. I am a visual person myself, so I have asked Marilyn Sandifur, our public presentations wiz to sum up the State of the Port in a short video. Then I will see if I can match that with a bunch of words.

Indeed, we are everyone’s port.  We generate 84,000 jobs for our communities and beyond.

  • The Port is where 13.4 million passengers fly for work and leisure through Oakland International Airport.
  • It is the Port through which the merchandise you buy at stores or through Amazon is shipped. It may come on one of over 2.5 million containers moving through the seaport. Or it could be part of the million pounds of freight that comes through the airport.
  • The Port is also where you go for some of the best shoreline parks and trails in the east bay or where you catch the ferry in Oakland.
  • Of course, Jack London Square is Oakland’s gateway to the bay where you go for gourmet food, a jazz concert show or a movie.
  • The Port is also the home of the iconic cranes you see from the Bay Bridge that inspired AT-AT Walkers in The Empire Strikes back, no matter how much George Lucas denies it. [By the way AT-AT Walkers stand for All-Terrain Armored Transport Walkers…and I know this because my fiancé, Oliver, is a Star Wars fanatic and nerd…but, I digress].

The Point is, if you live in the Bay Area, the Port of Oakland probably touches your life on a frequency and in ways that would surprise you.

Thanks to Women In Logistics and the PMSA for inviting me here today and giving me the opportunity to introduce myself and share my plans. I have spent time with many of you already either as a friend or a colleague, or during the past weeks, as I reached out to you to hear how the Port touches your lives, your community, your business and your jobs.

I do want to point out that this is the first time I have gotten the privilege to make a speech about the state of anything, other than to myself about the State of Danny Wan when I get up in the morning. I have seen the state of the Union speeches before Congress and I am feeling like some people should be sitting behind me trying very hard not to make faces as the speech goes on and on. I am glad you are in front of me, so feel free to make faces, as well as applaud or hoot and holler if so inspired.

So Yes, I’m the new Executive Director at the Port of Oakland. I’m also a lawyer and served as the Port’s attorney for 11 years. And I was a politician having served on the Oakland City Council and the Board of the East Bay Municipal Utility district.
Mike Zampa, our communications director, thought that between being a lawyer and a politician, there must be a joke in there somewhere. However, I just could not think of one single joke that I’ve ever heard about lawyers or politicians. and, I’m sure you can’t, either.

Let’s just say, I am proud of Oakland; I know our town; I’ve worked hard for Oakland, and I look forward to working with you to make the Port of Oakland even greater.
So, let’s get down to business.

The state of the Port…
We’ve got plenty to feel good about:

  • An airport nearing its all-time high in terms of passenger count and with the largest share of air cargo of all the Bay Area airports.
  • A seaport that has set volume records in two of the last three years despite our federal government’s best attempt to use trade as a geopolitical bargaining chip.
  • Also, a way of doing business that cares about the community we reside in by retrofitting with clean air equipment and infrastructure, and capturing job opportunities for the residents in the region, with focus on eliminating barriers to those who need a start in their careers.

I want to stop right here and say thank you. Our success is the result of all of you in the room deciding to either work with the Port of Oakland or for it. I want to especially acknowledge the Port’s very dedicated and smart board members (introduced Port Board members). And we have elected leaders from our communities who have worked with us to support our goals of commerce and community. In the audience we have … (acknowledged BART Board member; elected officials in attendance – Mayors and Councilmembers, and their staff ), and I acknowledge the many leaders of the businesses and communities whom we depend on for our success.

I am fortunate to take the helm at a time when we have good leaders and partners and at a time of stability and of growth. But I’ve also been with the Port long enough to remember not too long ago when the Port faced financial strain and a crisis of leadership. I also know that we compete in industries and live in a world of disruptive technologies that make fools of people who try to predict business trends and growth lines.

It is with the knowledge of our history and unpredictability of our business that I am certain of my mission. And that is to plan smartly and build a solid foundation so that this enterprise will withstand the test of time and sustain itself through the ups and downs of any business cycle.

And there are really only two simple elements of this foundational work: We need to both improve our platform and build our ecosystem. I borrow these terms from the digital tech world. Let me explain. A digital “platform”, according to Wikipedia, is the stage or the “system” on which computer programs can run. A good digital platform provides all the programs on your computer to function using the same set of data and your inputs. And, this is what fundamentally the Port is – a real-world platform that invites tenants, operators and workers to develop and carry out their own programs and operations. To be the platform of choice for our users, the Port needs to be nimble and versatile in that it cuts across organizational structures, silos, policies, and adapts to the changing technologies and needs of our users and customers. Lastly, the infrastructure of Port or the “operating system” if you will needs to be frequently refreshed and upgraded.

Today, many of the upgrades to the Port platform are already happening and shown in the video, including upgrading the Airports food & beverage offerings, raising the perimeter dike to prevent flooding of our runways, the opening of the new market hall at Jack London Square, and bringing on line the Seaport Logistics Complex.

Beyond these current investments by the Port and our partners, we need to systematically map out the future upgrades (hopefully not patches) to make sure the Port is keeping up with the latest.
Toward this end, the Board and staff will be engaged in discussions in 2020 to master plan the Port’s land use and infrastructure with the focus on customers, users, employees, and community. And we will be inviting all of you to participate in this master planning process. Initially:

  • With the leadership of our Maritime Director, John Driscoll, the Oakland Seaport will be planning for improved traffic circulation, upgrading of equipment and technology investments that facilitate moving cargo in and out of the port quickly and with the least amount of congestion and environmental impact. As well, the Port will continue the transformation of the former Oakland Army Base with emphasis on land uses that allows for cargo transfer and distribution on site to reduce truck miles.
  • Our Aviation Director, Bryant Francis, will focus the Airport on how we will accommodate the growing business and leisure travel needs of the region. Oakland Airport has some of the most constrained passenger terminals among airports with comparable passenger levels. With our airline partners and community, we will need to imagine an airport with minimal footprint and impact that can provide a great traveling experience as both business and leisure travel grow with the Bay Area economy.
  • An important mission of the Port is to develop and manage our lands for maximum public benefit and provide opportunities for the public to visit the state’s waterfront. Our Commercial Real Estate Director, Pam Kershaw, will develop strategies to use and manage our public lands for commercial uses and to blend that with creating vibrant spaces for visitors to the waterfront.

Lastly, but not the least, a basic function of the Port platform that connects to all the Port’s users is to maintain the roads, wires, pipes and drains. At 93 years old, much of the Port’s infrastructure needs a refreshment and upgrade. As well, the Port needs to constantly search out and adopt new technologies and ways of operating to be ever more user-friendly, cleaner and efficient. To this end, I have just appointed a new Chief Operating Officer in the person of Kristi McKenney who, along with our Chief Financial Officer, Sara Lee, will guide the Port’s planning for Port-wide operations and infrastructure, innovation and financial health.

Focusing on the Port’s platform will go a long way to a good future. But, it will be for naught if we don’t have the other foundational element to our vitality. That is a supportive and nurturing ecosystem. Our ecosystem consists of our neighbors, the streets and infrastructure surrounding the Port, and the cities and institutions that border us. As for any living organism or any organization, the ecosystem within which the Port exists could either stunt our growth – or protect us and help us grow.

Two main initiatives are already under way to preserve a healthy environment and maintain the symbiotic relationships within the port ecosystem.

First, the Port will implement the Pathway to zero emissions through the mechanisms outlined in the Air Quality 2020 and Beyond Plan that our Board adopted last year after countless hours that many of you devoted to help us develop. This plan is the Port’s intention and implementation of measures to reduce health-damaging pollutants or greenhouse gases. We all understand that this will be expensive and will require openness to test and adopt new feasible technologies. But I believe with plenty of honest, frequent and open dialogue with partners like the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, we will achieve a zero-emissions future and a sustainable Port.

The second initiative to maintain a supportive ecosystem is where I need all of your help. It is the establishment of an industrial sanctuary policy. To explain, I will draw on a subject on which I have spent a disproportionate amount of my time as Executive Director…the Howard Terminal. It is a topic deserving of lots of discussion…not only because it is a major visioning of how the Port can best use a piece of valuable waterfront land for the maximum public benefit, but also because it has been a catalyst, or a spark if you will, to a discussion that Oakland and the region has been needing to have for a long time. And, that is…in an urban community where leaders and residents want to both create more housing and residential amenities and to preserve an industrial base for good paying middle class jobs, how must land use and transportation planning make these two goals compatible.

It is my contention that in the current environment where housing is a critical need, there needs also be a conscientious effort to provide for a sanctuary for industry and its ancillary transportation needs. Let me be clear, the need for an industrial sanctuary does not preclude the proposal by the Oakland Athletics to build a major league ballpark at Howard Terminal. The Port sees exciting possibilities in the project: a more vibrant waterfront gateway to the city, added business in Jack London Square, more jobs for our neighbors and a diversified revenue source.

I believe that the ballpark can be achieved if the proper measures are implemented to ensure compatibility with the Maritime business. Noise…traffic…buffers between industry and residents…these are all issues raised by the proposed ballpark. But we’re facing those same concerns in a larger context from residential and commercial development happening all around us. In this effort, I am glad that our city leaders, including the Mayor, recognize that the Port of Oakland is an indispensable jobs and economic engine and tax base of the region. Being indispensable means that we have to be preserved.

From the perspective of the Port, the objective of an industrial sanctuary is to provide and preserve the land use, transportation and infrastructure both inside and outside the Port area to accommodate transportation, commerce, business and jobs needs of our region. Therefore, this is the ask that I make of you: Let’s all declare and explain the need for an Industrial Sanctuary Policy. We must explore ways to integrate this policy with other planning goals – such as the AB 617 community plan, the regional transportation funding and infrastructure plans, our cities’ general and specific plans, and the various efforts to solve the housing crisis that are in the headlines today.

In sum, by improving the Port Platform to support our business and industry and by better integrating the Port to the Ecosystem around us, we will solidify the foundation of a healthy and vibrant Port for decades to come. It will continue to be the place to work, to travel, to get our goods, to enjoy our waterfront, and, yes to inspire more movies about our distant future in places far far away.

We will continue to be Everyone’s Port. So, go out there please, let your customers and partners, your neighbors and your community know that the Port is for everyone and here to stay for the benefit of all.

Thank you again for listening.

See “Everyone’s Port” video here.

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