Bud Shoemake and the Port of Toledo: An Oregon Coast Native’s Perspective on the Marine Industry, PMEC-SETS, and Local Economic Development

December 4, 2017

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A boat is lifted in the high-capacity lift.
The Port of Toledo high-capacity lift.
Courtesy of Bob Shoemake
A photo of Bud Shoemake

Bud Shoemake, Port Manager of the Port of Toledo and President of the Oregon Public Ports Association, has been around the water for most of his life. Port Manager of the Port of Toledo for fourteen years, Bud previously worked as a general contractor, served as Director of Operations and Harbormaster at the Port of Newport, started a brewery in Siletz, Oregon, and most recently opened the Fred Wahl Boatyard in Toledo.

Please tell us a little about the Port of Toledo.

The Port of Toledo was established in 1910. Similar to the rest of the Oregon ports, the Port of Toledo was designed to be an economic development tool of the state. We are part of the Oregon Public Ports Association (OPPA)—an association that represents all of the 23 ports in Oregon. From my experience as president of the OPPA, I can say that Oregonian ports are pretty diverse. Newport, for instance, is a deepwater port and is designed to handle much larger, heavy-loaded ships versus the Toledo Port, which is relatively shallow in depth at around 20 feet.

What are some of its core competencies and what differentiates it from other, similar facilities along the coast?

One key differentiator is our close partnership with the Port of Newport via the Yaquina River, which we help maintain through various dredging activities. Preserving this channel enables us to provide the bulk of the maintenance for the Newport commercial fishing fleet. While Newport has the fish plants, moorage, and staging via the Newport Terminal, Toledo operates one of the only boatyards in Oregon where you can actually pull boats out of the water. We do maintenance on a large number of distant-water vessels that fish from the South Pacific to the Bering Sea. We also provide licenses to over 40 businesses and marine vendors to work out of our boatyard. Most of these businesses and marine vendors are involved in Oregon’s commercial fishing fleet or general boating operations.

Please tell us a little about your team and the training it takes to work at the facility.

I would characterize ourselves as a medium sized port with about 40 employees, the vast majority of whom are from the Oregon coast. Finding prospective employees with the required work or trade school experience has always been a challenge, though. For instance, there is an aging workforce and a critical shortage of welders in both Oregon and the United States. Our port is making a conscious effort to create jobs, particularly for nearby counties, which helps ensure that any new, perspective workforce members do not have to leave the state to find work.

We are also in the process of developing a new five-year business plan which will outline recruitment strategies and facility updates. Early engagement with key stakeholders is vital for any planning process so we connected with representatives from Oregon State University as well as the larger community on this business plan.

How did you first hear about the Pacific Marine Energy Center–South Energy Test Site (PMEC-SETS), and how did it relate to the Port of Toledo?

I was first introduced to the idea of the facility by two of the biggest supporters of PMEC-SETS: Belinda Batten, who is the Executive Associate Dean of OSU’s College of Engineering, and Justin Klure, a partner at the Portland-based consulting group Pacific Energy Ventures. While the Port of Toledo supported the idea of a renewable energy facility, we wanted to be considerate of our fishing fleet which is central to the heart of our community. Our approach was to wait and see what the local fishermen thought of the facility plans. Once their support came in for PMEC-SETS, it was easy for us to give our own support as well.

How do you envision working with PMEC-SETS in the future?

There are numerous pieces to this testing facility that the Port of Toledo can service. For instance, we offer extensive expertise in welding, fitting, painting, and machinery. We also have the boatyard which can be used for launching the devices, as well as a tug boat service to tow along the Yaquina River. There are significant lift capabilities as well, with two mobile lifts (660 and 85 ton capacities) and two hydro cranes (65 and 20 ton capacities) available for use.

A map of the Oregon Coast.
The Port of Toledo is connected to the Port of Newport via the Yaquina River.
What do you think some of the biggest economic impacts will be from the test site on the local community?  

PMEC-SETS has the capacity for up to 20 wave energy converters at once, so there is tremendous potential for the site to have a significant impact on jobs in Toledo through building and maintaining marine equipment and devices needed for PMEC-SETS. The Port of Toledo was awarded state grant funds from the Connect Oregon Grant (COG) to support our facility and staffing. A recent COG award helped finance one of our primary lifts that can now be applied to future use with PMEC-SETS, so there is certainly tie-in with the facility, not only from our local community, but at the state level as well.

How do you think PMEC-SETS affects the Oregon coast economy and the marine industry as a whole?

I think one key indicator is that legislatively, the marine industry has been recognized as a key industry in Oregon this year. Our efforts with PMEC-SETS are driven by the need to solve our energy problems not as separate coastal cities but as a whole state coastline. A lot of the core services offered by commercial facilities along the coast are going to dovetail very nicely with what PMEC-SETS needs in the long run. The fact that the test facility can source equipment and services from local facilities such as Toledo, Newport, and Coos Bay is enormously useful for the facility as well as for the local community.

Are there any common misconceptions about the marine industry that you would like to clarify?

It’s important to note that our marine industry does not widely promote itself. Lincoln County, where Toledo is located, is known for its tourism rather than for its commercial maritime operations even though several county studies point to the marine industry as a key source of revenue. We have a maritime tradition in Toledo that we are very proud of. Years ago, Beat Generation novelist Ken Kesey gave a talk in Newport where he spoke about how the biggest and most important changes occur locally. If our port can affect change in the most positive manner possible, that will translate up to the Oregon coast and eventually to the industry at large. That has historically been how we operate and is the model we will continue to use as we go into the future. 

What key information would you give to prospective marine energy developers who are curious about your facility, the town of Toledo, and the Oregon coast?    

Anything maintenance-wise on either the mechanical or electrical sides can be accomplished in our area. We have the expertise of marine vendors in our boatyard and are here to support the marine industry. The Oregon coast is a beautiful place to both work and to live. 

The Pacific Marine Energy Center, South Energy Test Site (PMEC-SETS) is being designed and constructed by Oregon State University. When completed, PMEC-SETS will be a utility scale, grid connected, open ocean test facility located off the coast of Newport, Oregon. The site will be able to accommodate up to 20 WECs in four test berths at any one time. Each of the four test berths will have a dedicated transmission cable and the site will be pre-permitted for known WEC technologies. PMEC-SETS will enable technology developers to prove device performance in robust wave environments for extended periods of time; thereby, demonstrating technical viability, determining methods for cost reduction, and advancing technologies toward commercial readiness and cost-effective power delivery.