When you think of the types of business sectors we have in Seattle it’s easy to mentally jump to jets, coffee and software. But when you think about an icon for the Northwest, few would challenge the salmon as our region’s reigning champion symbol.
Our local economy and our dinner tables have long benefited from the annual salmon harvest in Alaska. Seattle is home to a significant portion of the Alaska fishing fleet and several “fishy” businesses, large and small, are headquartered here.
Earlier this week I toured one of those businesses. Ocean Beauty is a 102 year-old business located on the ship canal, southeast of the Ballard Bridge. They’re a fish processing company, but that’s a dry way of saying they make delicious things from fish and send the products all over the world. Mark Palmer, Ocean Beauty’s President and CEO, explained that they provide hundreds of jobs to people in a variety of fields, including administration, logistics, mechanics, transportation and, of course, fishing. Ocean Beauty doesn’t do the fishing, but they contract with the boats that do.
Ocean Beauty processes the salmon and other fish (Pollock, hake, mussles, tobiko and more) into more than 1,200 packaged products, some fresh some packaged. Ocean Beauty has offices in China and Japan and distributors in Europe, as well. Seattle is strategically located to be the American distribution hub. We watched workers thaw, skin, prep and package the last of the 2011 take.
On these tours I get to learn what a company like Ocean Beauty does and I get to learn what holds them back. We can’t take for granted that a company like Ocean Beauty will choose Seattle and stay forever. Mark had plenty to tell me about difficulties with access road maintenance and feedback later about zoning rules, too. Mark, I’m looking into it.
As we walked through Ocean Beauty’s offices on the way to the prep and freezer areas, many of the cubicles were empty. Staff is already on their way up to Alaska for this year’s harvest. In fact, Copper River salmon just started this week. I think I know what’s for dinner this weekend.