The Puyallup Tribe was front and center during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Tacoma with wife Madame Peng Liyuan. A highlight of President Xi’s time here was his visit to Lincoln High School where he interacted closely with students both in the gym and in a classroom, and spoke before a crowd of 500 people in the auditorium about the value of education and hard work. He also presented the students with gifts of books and ping-pong tables, and a surprise invitation for 100 Lincoln High School students to visit China as his guests sometime next year. A group of Puyallup tribal members were among those in attendance, including Chairman Bill Sterud.
“It was a great honor and I was very proud to represent the Puyallup Tribe at the recent visit of President Xi to Tacoma,” Bill Sterud said. “The presentation from the Chinese president was extremely impressive – something that moved me very much.”
Others traveling with President Xi included Professor Wu Lebin, chairman of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Holdings Co., Ltd., the investment, research and development arm of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a cabinet level agency within China like the Department of Energy here in the U.S. Prof. Wu was appointed chairman of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Holdings in June 2014. After joining the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1988, he has held a number of roles in the organization, including president and chairman of Biosino Bio-Technology and Science, Inc. (BioSino), and vice president of the Institute of Biophysics. He received a Masters degree in Biosciences and Bachelor’s degree in Medicine from Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1988.
As China’s leaders are working to reduce the country’s coal consumption over the next decade in order to eliminate chronic air pollutants and address long-term climate change concerns, Chairman Wu was in Tacoma to announce the expansion of capacity at Port of Tacoma to produce methanol manufactured by the Pacific Northwest-based NW Innovation Works through using natural gas delivered by pipelines. NW Innovation Works is a multi-national partnership that promotes manufacturing methanol from natural gas rather than coal, as doing so offers a significant environmental benefit and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 70 percent, in addition to posing minimal risk to air, water and land The methanol will then be exported to Asia, where Chinese companies will convert it to olefin, a compound found in many plastic and fiber goods such as carpeting, furniture and cell phone covers.
“It’s a wonderful way to promote global environmental responsibility and economic growth for communities,” said NW Innovation Works project spokesperson Charla Skaggs.
NW Innovation Works has opened an office in Tacoma and is working with the Port of Tacoma, the cities of Tacoma and Fife, Tacoma Fire Department, Pierce County and the Puyallup Tribe to consider the unique site needs at the Port of Tacoma.
While in town, Chairman Wu and representatives from NW Innovation Works met with Puyallup Chairman Bill Sterud. “We wanted to meet with Chairman Sterud for a nation-to-nation meeting,” said Skaggs. “This was the initial meting to show our respects, explain the project and answer questions to ensure that they understood the project and to be present for anything they may need from us.”
“Having the opportunity to meet with Chairman Wu will provide new economic opportunities for the Tribe in the near future,” Bill Sterud said. “I look forward to working with the Chinese in these endeavors.
“I was very impressed with Chairman Wu,” he continued. “We called each other ‘cousin.’ Not only is he head of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, he’s also a doctor. I explained our recent opening of our cancer care center and the possible partnerships in the future with Asian medicine in helping with the concerns of cancer. We discussed not only the cancer center but other projects such as the development of our deep water port.”
In addition to Port of Tacoma, NW Innovation Works has proposed two other facilities in the Northwest: a two-phase, $1.8 billion plant at an existing industrial park owned by the Port of Kalama, which approved a lease agreement with NW Innovation Works in April 2014, and a two-phase, $1.8 billion gas-to-methanol plant at Port Westward, an existing industrial park owned by the Port of St. Helens in Clatskanie, Ore. At Port of Tacoma, NW Innovation Works is proposing to construct a two-phase, $3.4 billion gas-to-methanol plant. NW Innovation Works signed a lease with the Port in 2014 and is anticipating the permitting process to begin soon. Charla Skaggs said that at the peak of construction, the project will create up to 1,000 jobs and once operational, it will employ up to 260 full-time managers and workers. The facility will be sited at the former Kaiser property.
“The good news is that in Tacoma we are going to have four manufacturing lines for methanol,” Charla Skaggs said, double that of the other two plants. “The original investment was $1.8 billion and now will be a $3.4 billion investment in Tacoma.”
As work on the Tacoma plant proceeds, Charla Skaggs said she looks forward to continued interactions with the Tribe. “We want Chairman Sterud to know of our desire and willingness to talk to them so that the open channel of communication will remain. We want to be a good neighbor and community member and be responsive to any questions or concerns the Tribe might have.”