Guest Commentary: Success and a Coming Departure — A Port of Chehalis Report


We are already halfway through the year, so here is a mid-year summary of what has been going on at the Port of Chehalis in 2021.

We started the year with a bang by making the biggest property sale in our history to McCallum Rock Drilling, a local family-owned company with a long, proud history in the area.

McCallum employs highly skilled workers who travel all over the western United States doing rock drilling and blasting work. They employ 100 workers right now and plan to double that over the next few years. The jobs at McCallum are great jobs, with employees getting good benefits and making two to three times the average wages paid in Lewis County.

We fought competitively to keep them here, and McCallum Rock Drilling has made an impressive long-term commitment to our community in return.

The good news does not stop there.

Last year, we opened our new rail transload facility and loaded the first shipments of locally grown malting barley onto railcars for export. Six-hundred-twenty tons of local grain were loaded onto railcars and sent away to be turned into beer, and this year local farmers will more than double that amount. That’s about 450 acres of local farmland now being put into profitable use, and local family farms being kept in business.

Many thanks to all our regional partners at Lewis County, the Farm Bureau, the Lewis Economic Development Council, the Northwest Agricultural Business Center and Washington State University for all coming together and helping to make this happen.

We have a few other things going on as well.

We are helping out our local farmers by using a small federal grant to identify obstacles they face and find solutions to get their products to market. We fully leased up the first new building we have built in 20 years, recruiting a variety of new and existing businesses to fill the spaces from as far away as King County. We are partnering with Twin Transit on developing the first hydrogen fueling facility in the state. And we secured funding to make some real, concrete fixes to culverts and ditches that cause flooding issues every year in the Chehalis industrial park — finally, no more studies!

One of our port commissioners, Ken Kostick, resigned in April after moving outside of his commissioner district. Chehalis resident Paul Ericson was appointed to temporarily replace him, and this November the voters will select who serves in the next four years in that position. We greatly appreciate the individuals in our community who step up to serve the public as volunteer port commissioners: they represent our ultimate bosses, the taxpayers of our community and they set our policies and the direction of our organization.

We work for them, and they work for you.

Finally, one of the major tasks for our commissioners over the next few months will be to select my replacement as the next CEO of the Port of Chehalis.

I will be leaving this position at the end of the year to pursue other opportunities. As a former Centralia kid who moved back to Lewis County after 23 years away, coming home for the last seven years in this job has been the greatest experience. I am incredibly proud of the things our port team has accomplished during that time, and confident that I am handing over management of a port that is in great shape. Not only in a financial sense but also organizationally, culturally and ethically. Ports can do really positive things for their communities, and I am excited to see where my successor and the rest of the port team go from here.

As I write this mid-year report, the sun is coming out, the masks are coming off, business is picking up everywhere and our community is looking great.

The Port of Chehalis has some great community projects now underway and additional ones in the planning stages. The only way we can ever make those happen is with the support of you: our neighbors, partners and friends all over the community. Economic development is a team sport and together we all make a winning team.

So, from our port commissioners, staff and families we all say, “thank you!”


Randy Mueller is the chief executive officer for the Port of Chehalis.