Cascade Locks Looks Toward the Future

By Rick Roach

Newly appointed General Manager of the Port of Cascade Locks, Olga Kaganova, was excited to share her vision and ideas about the future of the Port during our recent interview. Coming from a business and finance background Olga had already been putting her skills to work as the Deputy Manager of the Port before advancing to the Manager position. After being identified as the next General Manager she spent the last six months learning the job under the tutelage of previous General Manager Paul Koch. Koch is retiring after many fruitful years at the Port and leaving the helm in Olga’s capable hands. Olga was in a committee meeting with a few of the Port commissioners when I arrived for our interview so she invited me to sit in for the last part of the meeting. The commissioners stayed after the meeting so I was able to not only get Olga’s thoughts about her new role, but also gather a little history of the Port and their ideas about future developments.

The Port of Cascade Locks is a complex multi-faceted organization working with various local, state, and federal municipalities to advance economic growth in the region. Not only does the Port own and operate the Bridge of the Gods, Gorge Museum, Columbia sternwheeler, a marine park, an RV park and a business incubator they also work very closely with the city of Cascade Locks to ensure future development on Port property is also beneficial to the city of Cascade Locks.

Olga described how previous work experience with the Job Corps, other non-profit organizations, a charter school and as a business consultant enabled her to learn the diverse skills necessary to manage the Port. When asked about her favorite part of her new role as manager Olga replied that doing fiscally responsible things that generate a benefit to the region was exciting to her. The most challenging part of the job, according to Olga, is not having enough hours in a day to get everything done. “I could use about 3 more hours in a day”, joked Olga. She mentioned that using “connecting tools” such as; special software, process flow, logistics, structure, internal management and business structures as important to the development of Port initiatives and to help it achieve its mission to develop the economy and benefit the community at large. She was very impressed with the unique approach by the commissioners to preserve the organizational culture while still recognizing its mission during her transition from Deputy Manager to General Manager.

Big projects either planned or already operating at the Port are the Pfriem Family Brewers production and warehouse facility, and the Renewal Workshop on Port property. Pfriem Family Brewers of Hood River Oregon will build a new production and 22,000 square foot warehouse facility with an expected completion date in Q1 in 2020. The Renewal Workshop, a clothing renewal factory, has already grown from 6 to 25 people in the past 2 years with plans to grow to 99 employees in the next 5 years. As an incubator business located on Port property, Thunder Island Brewing Co. has benefitted from the Port’s mission as an economic engine and will be breaking ground for a new purpose-built brewery and taproom on WaNaPa street in Cascade Locks in summer 2019 with an expected opening date in late spring/early summer 2020. In addition Ravenwood Group of Portland will be developing a new facility on WaNaPa street in a “McMennamin style” building that will serve to “bring people to the Gorge and keep people in the Gorge” according to Jess Groves, Commission President of the Port of Cascade Locks.

“The goal is to get people to come and spend time here and then go tell their friends”, Groves said.

He also mentioned that the sternwheeler, marine and RV park were big assets to the Port and help in its quest to be an economic hub in the Gorge. He called the Port the “jewel of the Gorge” with lots to do including having a fantastic wedding venue at Thunder Island.

Port commissioner Joeinne Caldwell mentioned the world class sailing available in the Cascade Locks area of the Gorge as Jess added that it is one of the top 5 places in the world for sailing. Caldwell mentioned that sailing enthusiasts say that it is one of the most challenging places to sail in the world. Olga mentioned a world class event, the 2019 29er National Championships occurring on July 12 – 14, sponsored by the Columbia Gorge Racing Association (CGRA) as an example of the caliber of sailboat racing at Cascade Locks. Another big event at Cascade Locks is the annual fourth of July fireworks show with approximately 5000 people attending last year. Businesses sponsor the event which shoots off approximately $12,000 dollars worth of fireworks for a spectacular jaw dropping display.