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Port of St. Helens commissioners set to vote May 23 for possible new name; public input sought

The Port of St. Helens may not be the Port of St. Helens for much longer.

In the first official discussion Wednesday morning, April 25, Port commissioners mulled the merits of changing the agency's name.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Port of St. Helens Executive Director Doug Hayes (center) pitches a name change to port commissioners Wednesday, April 25. To his right, port attorney Robert Salisbury listens in."The port is going to make a formal recommendation for a name change," Executive Director Doug Hayes told commissioners. Hayes noted the change would help the agency brand itself better and "have something more in line with what the port does geographically."

Hayes suggested a name incorporating Columbia County, rather than just St. Helens. "Port Authority of Columbia County" was suggested, as well as "Port District of Columbia County" and "Port of Columbia," despite a port in Washington with the same name.

"People are confused about what we do," Hayes said, noting businesses outside the county often make the assumption that the port is much smaller in scope.

"I've always thought it was a worthy consideration," Commissioner Robert Keyser said.

Commissioner Larry Ericksen asked Hayes what the benefit to the port and district residents would be.

"I think, honestly, we will be approached a lot more," Hayes replied.

"From a marketing point of view, the name Port of St. Helens is a little difficult to work with," Ericksen said. "It's just a little tough to help people understand where that is if they're not from the district. ...Things really make sense to us, because we're in the midst of it, but the people outside looking in, it's got to make sense to them."

While the majority of commissioners seemed in favor of giving more consideration to a possible name change, Commissioner Chris Iverson wasn't so sure it was the right move for the agency, noting he remains "on the fence" about the merits of scrapping the port's name.

"I'd be interested in knowing what the cost would be," Iverson said, noting letterhead and all official printed materials would need to be changed.

"What is the benefit to the port?" Iverson asked rhetorically. "What's the benefit to the citizens of us changing the name?"

While Wednesday's meeting marked the first official discussion by the port's board of commissioners, it's not the first time Hayes has pitched the idea as a way to better market the agency, which offers properties and docks across a 51-mile range along the Columbia River.

Commissioners are likely to vote on the name change following a public hearing scheduled for May 23.

Public input and name suggestions can be submitted through the port's website at www.portsh.org, by email or in person at the port's office in Columbia City.

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