This past January, Randy Mueller took the reins as CEO of the Port of Ridgefield, replacing retiring CEO Brent Grening. Mueller most recently held the role of CEO of the Port of Chehalis, and prior to that he worked as the director of business development for the Port of Ridgefield.
The Vancouver Business Journal caught up with Mueller to ask about how things have been going since he took over the CEO position at the Port of Ridgefield, what kinds of challenges the Port is currently facing, what projects and exciting happenings are coming up at the Port, and more.
VBJ: It has been almost three months since you took over the CEO position at the Port of Ridgefield. How have those three months been? What have you been working on the most during those three months?
Randy Mueller: The first three months on the job have been great. In the typical Ridgefield way, everyone has been incredibly helpful and supportive … the Port commission, staff and all our partners in the community. Most of this time has been spent getting up to speed on our current projects and the challenges and opportunities facing our organization. This means lots of meetings, fortunately they’re becoming more in-person and less via Zoom.
VBJ: You previously worked as the director of business development at the Port of Ridgefield from 2007-2014. What did that job entail? What about that job do you think helped to prepare you for the CEO positions you later moved into?
Mueller: My prior work at the Port of Ridgefield involved real estate acquisition, planning for the Ridgefield Rail Overpass and redevelopment of the Ridgefield waterfront. This was incredibly helpful to me later, as much of my current work centers around acquiring, developing and selling real estate as well as the construction of large capital projects.
VBJ: Why did you decide that you wanted to return to Ridgefield after being the CEO at the Port of Chehalis for seven years to step into the CEO role at the Port of Ridgefield?
Mueller: When I left Ridgefield seven years ago, I told anyone who would listen that when my former boss was ready to retire I wanted to throw my hat into the ring for consideration. Fast forward to seven years later, when I’ve had a great experience at the Port of Chehalis and my wife and I became “empty nesters” when our daughter went away to college. We decided that we were ready for a change, and when the Ridgefield opportunity became available we decided to go for it. There are many exciting things going on at the Port of Ridgefield, and I’m excited to pick them up and work on them again.
VBJ: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that the Port of Ridgefield is facing right now?
Mueller: Our organization is a small one, with a handful of employees and a very lean budget, so staff capacity is certainly an issue. Inflation and rising construction costs have been affecting all of our construction projects and make it that much harder to balance expenses with revenues. And there is a definite shortage of affordable land for creating new opportunities for industrial employment.
VBJ: In this new role as CEO of the Port, what are some of your initial goals? What specific things do you want to work on, say, during the first year on the job?
Mueller: While our organization has great relationships with our partner organizations and the greater Ridgefield community, I want to work on making them even better. You will see us active, involved and supportive in many places all around the community, and I hope that the community becomes equally involved in our work as well. When our Port projects succeed, our city, our downtown businesses, and our residents all benefit from the success and the resulting economic prosperity. The more good jobs we create locally, the less people we have losing hours from their lives commuting somewhere else for work.
VBJ: What are some of the things going on at the Port that you are most excited about? Projects, tenants, etc.?
Mueller: We recently built two new industrial buildings and promptly filled them up with high quality tenants. If you look around north Clark County, there is high demand in our area for affordable high quality industrial space for startups and small businesses. So, we want to help them by providing a home for their businesses here instead of forcing them to look elsewhere.
Another priority project for us is the redevelopment of the Ridgefield waterfront, which is finally ready now that the environmental cleanup work is done and the rail overpass is complete. Watch for us to re-engage the public with outreach as we start the process of planning, permitting and development.
And in a few weeks we are constructing the first phase of our fiber-optic broadband network, bringing high-speed internet to some areas where it’s critically needed. While parts of our area are fortunate to have good high-speed internet, there are large pockets of unserved or underserved areas who still need to be connected. For business, this is just as important as electricity or water are.
Article Source: Vancouver WA Business Journal