The Ted Fick era running the Port of Seattle began Thursday with his unanimous confirmation by Port commissioners.
With global competition rising and the possibility of merging with Tacoma on the table, Port commissioners said Fick’s expertise in manufacturing and logistics is what led them to chose Fick to steer the Port ahead.
“I think it is important for all of us to remember that in 10 years this Port is not going to look at all as it does today,” Commissioner Bill Bryant said during Thursday’s meeting. “Ted Fick has the experience we need to drive and shape that change.”
Fick, 55, holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Washington and master’s degrees in management from Stanford University and business administration from the University of Puget Sound.
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He spent many years working in the Puget Sound region’s manufacturing and industrial sector, beginning at his family’s Tacoma-based company, Fick Foundry. He worked at the Kenworth truck division of Bellevue-based Paccar for 17 years.
In 2000, he left the Pacific Northwest and most recently served as CEO of Polar Corp., a $475 million tank-trailer and component-parts manufacturer based in Minnesota.
For the last year, Fick worked as a consultant for private-equity firms. He said that was long enough to realize he prefers to run companies.
“This is an opportunity for me to take the 30 years of experience that I have gained throughout my career, to help drive this region’s economic engine,” Fick said in addressing the commissioners before Thursday’s vote.
He later said he’s also excited to be able to raise his Seahawks flag in friendly territory after four years in Minnesota with Vikings and Packers fans.
The Tacoma native will start work Sept. 29 at a salary of $350,000 a year. He succeeds Tay Yoshitani, who is retiring as CEO at the end of the month after seven years in the job.
Fick’s contract is for three years and restricts his ability to sit on a for-profit board for the first two years or for entities doing business related to Port activity, such as aviation and logistics.
The Port faced backlash in 2012 when it allowed Yoshitani to join the board of Expeditors International, a global logistics company headquartered in Seattle.
The employment agreement also states Fick will resign from his current board position with United States Distilled Products by next March 31.
Capt. Mike Moore, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, called Fick’s appointment “ a bold move by the Port of Seattle. Job one is jobs. It’s all about jobs … I’m sure that is where Mr. Fick will be focused.”
That focus was a common thread brought up by the commissioners Thursday, along with Fick’s ability to work with other agencies.
“I think having a leader from the private sector with that end-user prospective, is a nice complement that we can bring to the fabric of agencies and governments looking to address very real economic issues in the region,” Commissioner Tom Albro said during the meeting.
Speaking to reporters, Fick said he is not concerned about the airport side of the Port because it is doing well. He said he will need more time to learn the challenges and opportunities available to the Port, but suggested a merger with the Port of Tacoma is not off the table.
“One of the things I do know is that both ports have been losing market share, and it is very important that we make the Puget Sound region the gateway for container traffic to move into and out of this country,” he said. “I think [Tacoma] certainly represents an opportunity … I don’t know a lot about that yet, but there could be something there.”