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Doug Hayes, new Port of St. Helens executive director, has history of fostering economic development abroad

Doug Hayes has spent most of his adult life traveling the world to serve his country. Now he's ready to settle down in St. Helens to serve Columbia County.

Hayes was recently hired on as executive director at the Port of St. Helens.

Hayes A career military man and University of North Georgia graduate, Hayes retired from the the U.S. Army as a battalion commander just in time to relocate his family from Harker Heights, Texas, to take the Port gig in Oregon.

"My family has been in the military since before the Revolutionary War," Hayes notes, recounting an Army brat childhood that took him across the country before he landed in New Jersey long enough to finish high school there. Hayes is the product of several generations of Army veterans, but his new government role represents a bit of uncharted territory.

He'll have the challenge of learning Oregon's public agency rules while navigating the political and economic landscape of Columbia County, but at this point, there's no challenge Hayes isn't up for.

"The military gives you perspective, it gives you the ability to work with other people, other organizations, and broadens your perspective," Hayes says. "I've worked with so many different foreign militaries, worked with the State Department numerous times."

Hayes says his history of high-level assignments and international negotiations is a good primer for the work ahead of him at the Port, as the county is poised for industry and population growth.

After three tours in Iraq, which left him trying to help rebuild the economy and working with business owners in Anbar Province, stints in Kosovo and Germany, he's played key roles in helping implement democratic elections overseas while working with shop owners to help them revive their businesses in war-torn countries.

"It was almost balanced between security and economic improvements," Hayes says of his time in Anbar Province.

Balance is a key word.

It's easily the single most pressing issue the Port faces as the agency waits for whatever legal and political hurdles lie ahead in the attempt to expand Port Westward Industrial Park, at the expense of valuable farmland.

"I don't want something that would interfere with the agricultural capability out there," Hayes says. "I've heard the challenges with the rail, the challenges with the road system, certainly the challenges with the environmental aspect. I can't stress that enough, the environmental aspect. That's really important. It's one of the things that drew [my family] here, too."

Despite sharp division on whether the project should move forward, Hayes is confident the Port can find the balance between industrial growth and sustainability of the Columbia River and its surrounding agricultural operations.

"The Port is not going to be irresponsible with this," he says. "We are going to take a hard look at anything that comes to the area. Economic development is crucial in every society, as long as it benefits everybody and not just one person. Bringing economic development to an area is good if it's successful, because it creates jobs ... and sometimes indirect jobs. It's a great thing to see, but it's gotta be done responsibly."

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