One of the primary roles of the Port of Walla Walla is to recruit and retain businesses and industries that hire employees for family-wage jobs.
Trying to lure employers to the Walla Walla Valley is an accepted and understood mission of the Port, but the retention aspect can sometimes be overlooked.
But some might be puzzled by the Port commissioners’ decision last week to purchase Martin Archery’s manufacturing building, warehouse and offices in an effort to keep the company from going under.
Retaining business that will go under or move is more cost effective than recruiting new ones. Competition is tough for industries with good jobs, and this Valley has to compete.
Martin Archery was once a thriving business known for its top quality archery equipment. Now the 60-year-old company is so deep in debt it would have to close because no buyer would take on those obligations. If it closes 20 employees will be out of work, and that is not only sad for those families but it hurts the local economy.
In addition, those who now do business with Martin Archery and their employees will have their revenues trimmed.
In trying to bring in new businesses a lot of promises are made, many include deferring taxes or outright tax breaks at the state and local level as well as making the infrastructure more affordable for the new business.
In this case, the infrastructure is already in place.
In the deal to save the local business, the Port will purchase 4.67 acres of Martin Archery property for $1.3 million, which is $400,000 less than the original asking price. This cash infusion is expected to relieve some of Martin’s debt. And this allows the Port to then lease the property to a new limited liability company — under California-based Diversis Capital — that plans to take over the bow manufacturing operations.
The Port is expected to enter into a 10-year lease with Diversis. The expectation is the company will retain the 20-person work force and perhaps even expand the business.
Martin now has a backlog of orders to fill, which bodes well for its future. The number of orders should increase when it is clear the company will remain in business. Orders had slowed because archers did not want to invest in expensive, high-quality equipment if the manufacturer was not there to stand behind it.
Losing an employer that provides stable employment is simply bad for the community.
The Port commissioners made the right move to help keep Martin Archery in business here.