The Port of Tillamook Bay has come a long way in the last 25 years, and perhaps no one knows that better than Joshua Balmer.
Balmer began working for the railroad on May 30, 1997 – a date he remembers well.
“I had my first day on the job that morning, and then that night I graduated from Neah-Kah-Nie High School,” he recalled.
He started out as a track laborer, where his days were spent replacing the rails along the Port’s rail line.
“It was challenging, but it was also a very rewarding job,” he said. A typical day might take him five miles down the track, or 50 miles into a deep canyon – offering stunning views of the coastline and seeing areas of the world that few people did.
After a few years on the track crew Balmer became a certified locomotive engineer working alongside the conductor to move trains up and down the tracks.
“I would say the best part about that job was seeing all the people smiling and waving as you went by,” he said. “When you hear a train coming, everyone stops and looks at it; you can’t help it. I will never forget that.”
Especially going through Rockaway Beach, Balmer remembers that people would hear the train coming and go to their windows to wave. “We had houses where we knew people would be waiting for us and waving and it just made you feel good.”
During his time on the railroad, Balmer worked his way up to chief dispatcher and railroad operations manager. Of course, that was before a massive storm in December of 2007 shut down the railroad.
“At the time, I understood that the decision to not move forward with repairs was the best choice,” he said, “but it definitely made me wonder where my place was because for the last 10 years that had been my whole focus. But knowing I was part of the Port family, they took me in and found me another spot and I kept going all these years. It goes to show that being loyal to someone is worth it.”
Balmer’s commitment to the Port has allowed him to adapt to new duties and responsibilities over the last 25 years. He has worked at the anaerobic digester, spent several years in the office, and even worked at the Air Base Cafe after the Port took over operations of the Tillamook Air Museum. Nowadays he’s working for the airport division.
“Josh and I started within weeks of each other at the Port in 1997,” recalled Michele Bradley, the General Manager at the Port of Tillamook Bay. “I was in the office and he was on the railroad. I now depend on his historical knowledge of the railroad and support he has for all parts of the Port. As the Port has grown in the past 15 years, we have refocused beyond the storm that took down the freight railroad, and now look to future development and growth in the industrial park and airport. Josh has been and will continue to be an important part of that journey.”
Over the last two and a half decades Balmer said he has seen immense growth at the Port, both in terms of the number of tenants they serve but also their overall reputation in the community.
“I don’t think people realize how many businesses and industries rely on the Port, and how much of the entire community the Port helps support,” he said. “And we just continue to grow and help bring more industry into our area for the betterment of our entire county.”
However, the Port decides to grow, Balmer will be there.
“When I started working after high school it was just always ingrained in me that you took a job and were loyal to your company,” he said. “The Port has been good to me; I am going to be good to the Port.”
The Port of Tillamook Bay serves as the core of the Tillamook region’s industrial economy. The port covers approximately 1,600 acres, including the Tillamook Municipal Airport, the Tillamook Air Museum and a 200-acre industrial park home to some of the largest enterprises in the
county and an array of small businesses.