The Port is required by federal guidelines to set it's property rental rates at something I'll call "fair market value." That may not be the exact technical term but it efficiently explains the idea behind the determination.
From what I understand that basis is applied to property ready to rent and in "fair market value condition." If the property is in need of repair then accommodations can be negotiated to allow for sweat-equity and tenant funded upgrades until such time the property reaches "fair market value condition," then the rents are adjusted to reflect that.
If a landlord private or public owns a property in less than average condition for marketing purposes it is considered a win-win to find a tenant who is willing to step in and invest their own sweat equity. Not all potential tenants are looking for properties that require upgrades initially, those potential tenants shop elsewhere for properties in move-in condition.
There are many different forms of commercial property defined by many different terms such as zoning, physical location, type of construction and of course physical condition. All of these definitions, whether legal, actual (objective) or perceived (subjective) participate in the valuation of a property and it's desireability.
No two people (businesses) bring the same combination of priorities to the search. Consequently, simply because a private commercial property owner has a property available there is no guarantee their property will fit one of those combinations.
There are no laws requiring empty commercial properties be rented 24/7/365. When an individual or group freely choose to become the landlord/manager of a commercial property or properties, they accept that risk based on their own judgment and analysis. Included in those decisions must be the allowance for market trends that may or may not work in their favor 24/7/365. That is a risk all property investors must accept.
Each time I encounter the opinion the Port of Walla Walla unfairly competes with private local commercial property owners, I am reminded of the puzzling hypocrisy that conspicuously leaks out from that overworked and misleading perspective. It never fails to amaze me that no one in the community speaks up to suggest "wait a minute" ... and so I am.
To complain and suggest the Port should not compete is to imply market control in favor of one special group (those lucky enough to afford investment properties) and to imply "do as I say, not as you do."