Business

Businesses hurt by Keystone ferry trouble

LANGLEY — Troubles with the ferry service between Keystone and Port Townsend has meant less money in the cash registers of island businesses.

Not having full-scale ferry service between Whidbey Island and the Olympic Peninsula has hit Central Whidbey businesses harder, but South End business owners can feel it too, they said Thursday during the monthly Langley Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

“I worked the flower and garden show in Seattle this weekend,” local business woman Mary Ann Mansfield said. “I told people, ‘I’m on Whidbey Island. Do you ever come over?’ and they said, ‘Oh no, not with your ferry situation.’”

Mansfield also said she had heard from many alternative healthcare providers on the South End who have lost regular clients because they couldn’t come over without the ferry.

Sarah Richards, president of the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Port Townsend-Keystone ferry committee, updated chamber members on the ferry group’s effort to raise awareness of the problems the outages and limited service have caused.

“As everyone knows, the ferries were pulled three days before Thanksgiving,” Richards said. “When they replaced them with whale-watching boats, that’s when I hit the roof.”

She joined the committee that is working to solve the Keystone ferry problems, which has lobbied the Legislature to make sure the best possible ferry service is restored and continues to pressure lawmakers for a long-range solution.

Some on the committee are not optimistic.

“We’re looking at two years of inadequate service,” Richards said. “It’s going to be terrible.”

To offset losses to businesses, the group wants mitigation funding from the state for advertising. They also want Island Transit services extended to serve the ferry connection better, and they are also asking for the addition of a passenger-only ferry this summer to complement the car ferry that’s currently running on the route.

The full impact of the reduced ferry runs on island businesses is not yet known.

Sharon Hart of the Island County Economic Development Council said figures indicating losses to local business won’t be available until early summer.

“But I know it’s a shock,” Hart said. “Businesses will struggle for about two years.”

Kathy McLaughlin, executive director of Good Cheer, wanted to know if county commissioners had done enough to help.

“Phil Bakke is very active and current on the topic,” Hart said.

Richards disagreed.

“They didn’t step up to the plate. They weren’t noisy enough,” she said about the three-member board of commissioners.

“Phil may be active, but I don’t know what Phil is doing. He’s not telling me,” Richards added.

Hart said ferry issues have moved up on the priority list of many politicians due to the recent trouble.

“They are born-again ferry believers,” she said.

Hart and Richards encouraged local business owners to share their stories with lawmakers or let them know if losses are significant.

The ICEDC can be reached at 360-678-6889 or at icedc@whidbey.net; Richards can be reached at 360-678-0919 or sarah@lavenderwind.com.

Michaela Marx Wheatley can be reached at 221-5300 or mmarxwheatley@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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