On Friday, the Reedsport community celebrated the completion of the Connect Oregon grant for $3.4 million for the Fred Wahl Marine Construction company that was granted in 2016.
City Manager Johnathan Wright invited four speakers from the county who played roles in getting the additional buildings and space, including former county commissioner, Susan Morgan, and current county commissioner, Chris Boice.
“It was a celebration because we have now completed all of the elements we said we were going to under the Connect Oregon grant,” Wright said. “At this mile marker, we are now at 100 employees. By doing this move, this expansion, we now have doubled our employment for our number one employer and that on the conservative side, could translate to a 20 to 30 percent increase in production which translates to more jobs.”
The biggest addition was an 80 foot tall building that could bring boats in during poor weather for projects like painting, welding or other construction that needs to be done during dry weather.
According to Wright, Fred Wahl Marine Construction does more fishing boat repairs than anyone else on the coast, but “you can count far more rainy days than you can sunny.”
“A lot of fishing is seasonal,” Wright said. “They are only in port for so long before they go out. Y this building will provide for a climate controlled facility where boats can be moved in and out much more quickly.
Wahl moved out to Reedsport in 1991 and expanded in 2011 which showed Wright that he was serious about staying around. When the American Bridge company made plans to leave Bolon Island in 2013, Wright and his team pleaded with them not to let it sit empty. They invited Wahl to consider another expansion and he agreed.
“We immediately started writing grants,” Wright said. “First with Douglas County Industrial Board which allowed us to put in a crossing at the railroad there. Next was we worked with Jim Zimmer from Fred Wahl to get the Connect Oregon grant for $3.4 million for yard infrastructure and to build a building that was large enough to fit a building and get it out of the weather.”
“We’re one of the few places on the Oregon Coast that now has the ability to work on vessels year round,” Wright said in May. “And because we have an enclosure that we can put vessels in, it also opens up national contracts like national security, where they require things to be housed inside and outside of elements. So we’re slowly building jobs back.”
Like much of Douglas County, Reedsport was once dependent on the timber industry. Fred Wahl is their slow climb out of 12 percent unemployment in 2012 as the company adds dozens of jobs at a time as it expands.
“They could actually take on more employees now, but one of the issues we are having now is workforce,” Wright said. “He’s always hiring, it’s just getting people in.”