Port of Friday Harbor picks Anacortes company to possibly run Jensen’s shipyard | Update

Editor’s note: Read a recap of the port’s April 11 meeting in this article.

North Island Boat Company could take the helm of the local shipyard, Jensen Boat Yard and Marina.

The Anacortes-based business was selected by port commissioners on April 4 as the potential operator for Jensen’s shipyard, which the Port of Friday Harbor staff is considering purchasing.

Staff from the port and North Island Boat Company will negotiate a lease agreement if port commissioners decide to purchase the shipyard at their April 11 meeting. Jensen’s is located off Turn Point Road, about five minutes south of the port’s current marina near the ferry landing in town.

Representatives of North Island Boat Company, as well as from Friday Harbor Marine, presented operation proposals to commissioners at the April 4 Port of Friday Harbor Board meeting, and commissioners unanimously opted for the Anacortes company.

Port Commissioner Greg Hertel said he picked North Island Boat Company because of the staff’s experience.

“They run a boatyard now,” he said, adding that staff are knowledgeable in areas such as permitting, ecology and best-management practices.

Hertel and Friday Harbor Port Commissioner Graham “Gib” Black noted that port staff had been negotiating with the Anacortes company for almost four months before the port received the proposal from Friday Harbor Marine.

“I was quite impressed with each company’s presentation, and what I had learned of their operations,” said Black. “Both felt like they could be excellent tenants for the port. The difference for me was the timing of the receipt of their proposals.”

According to Michael Roff, the shipyard’s owner and CEO, as well as KJ Roff, the president, North Island Boat Company is a boat maintenance and repair business that has served the greater Puget Sound area since 1986. The Roffs said they plan to hire about three more employees in Friday Harbor while maintaining the current crew and the Jensen’s name. If negotiations are finalized, as soon as they take over, the Roffs said they will offer all the services their crew performs in Anacortes at the Friday Harbor shipyard, which is more than Jensen’s offers today.

At the April 11 port meeting, commissioners are scheduled to vote on whether to finalize the purchase of the shipyard and adopt the master plan for the property. View the draft of Jensen’s Master Plan at www.portfridayharbor.org/jensen-sons-boatyard-and-marina-draft-master-plan.

Port staff have been discussing whether to purchase the property since the owners, who were looking to retire, presented the idea last September.

Former Port of Friday Harbor Commissioner Mike Ahrenius and his wife Jeri own the boatyard, and it has been in Jeri’s family for about a century. Ahrenius resigned from the board before the remaining commissioners and staff discussed the potential deal.

The purchase by a public entity, said the port’s Executive Director Todd Nicholson, will guarantee the shipyard remains intact.

“It’s just not financially feasible for private entities to buy a facility like this and put the type of infrastructure that would create the type of jobs that we would create,” he said.

Producing “family-wage, marine tech jobs,” said Nicholson, is the main reason for the acquisition.

“Ultimately, what we’re looking at is an additional revenue stream that is targeted at job creation,” he said.

The current plan is that the port would generate revenue from the shipyard by collecting rent from the operator, a portion of the operator’s gross sales and slip fees from boaters who dock at that marina.

Nicholson said he expects the purchase to be paid off in about a decade and for the sales to almost break-even before the loan is paid off. Any revenue generated from the boatyard would go back into the property, he added, through such projects as building, and then leasing, infrastructure.

Nicholson added that there are few local locations available for such projects.

“This parcel is one of, if not the only, waterfront industrial parcels on the island for this type of work,” said Nicholson.

He also explained that the staff performed more environmental studies on the property than required by the state for the acquisition. Hertel explained that public ports have more opportunities for grants, in areas such as environmental cleanup, than private companies.

“Our goal is to make the place cleaner and better when we’re done,” he said about the shipyard.

If the sale goes through, the acquisition is expected to be finalized by May. Check the Journal for updates.