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Vol. 15, No. 32 Week of August 08, 2010
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

AK-WA Connection 2010: Merchant leases Port of Tacoma space

The North West Company of Winnipeg, Manitoba, is using 100,000 square feet to distribute consumer goods in rural Alaska communities

Rose Ragsdale

Alaska-Washington Connection

The North West Company leased vacant warehouse space at the Port of Tacoma in December and drew praise from port officials for the move’s economic benefits, especially in the Alaska-Washington Trade.

Under the 10-year-lease, the 100,000-square-foot site, formerly used as a distribution center for Safeway, is expected to generate about $474,000 annually and bring as many as 35 jobs to the port area. North West is shipping goods from the port, primarily to Alaska via oceangoing container vessels.

Bob Cain, North West’s vice president of logistics and supply chain services, said the Canada-based merchant was not only excited about coming to the Port of Tacoma but also pleased to be bringing in new economic activity.

In announcing the agreement, Cain told the port’s commissioners that North West has every intention of building a long-term partnership because it also is in a long-term relationship with Alaska. The Winnipeg-based company is one of the leading providers of food and other products in Alaska and Canada with more than 228 stores and 6,900 employees.

Cain said the Port of Tacoma warehouse is an ideal location for shipping because of its proximity to Canada and Alaska.

Tim Ferrell, executive director for the Port of Tacoma, said the rental agreement “is an example of why Alaska trade is an important industry for the port and the region.”

Alaska is the port’s third-largest trading partner behind China/Hong Kong and Japan, with two-way trade valued at $3.5 billion in 2009.

North West has business roots dating back to the Hudson Bay Co. in the mid-1600s. Today, the company not only serves northern communities in North America but also the South Pacific and the Caribbean through the recently acquired Cost-U-Less Inc. chain of midsize warehouse stores.

At the Tacoma port, North West is using the warehouse facility for storage and distribution of food and retail products in Alaska. Since 1992, the company has owned the Alaska Commercial Co., which operates AC Value Center, the largest retailer in remote Alaska. Alaska Commercial, which has its own venerable history dating back to the Russian American Trading Co. in 1776, operates 33 combination food, general merchandise and Quickstop stores that span the length and breadth of the state, from Craig to Barrow and Fort Yukon to St. Paul.

“I am excited for our company to be a tenant in this property,” Cain said. “It’s primarily going to be used to support our business that supports our largest rural retail operator in Alaska from Barrow all the way down through Southeast Alaska.”

The Tacoma warehouse operation also will serve North West’s wholesale businesses in Alaska – Frontier Expeditors and Span Alaska Sales.



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