Business to Business
October 21, 2014

Reviving a fishing dock for the Makah tribe

The Makah tribe’s fishing dock in northwest Washington is ready for business — and spurring economic development in the region.

A fishing dock critical to the Makah tribe in Neah Bay, Washington, is open for business again — thanks to a Wells Fargo investment and teamwork.

When a joist underneath the 60-year-old dock gave way in September 2013, the tribe immediately shut it down and used three makeshift docks to try to handle the demand.

Wells Fargo bank tem for Makah fishing dock
Team Wells Fargo: Richard Weaver, Cora Gaane, Sarah Howard, and Scott Pinover.

Using the federal New Markets Tax Credit program, several Wells Fargo businesses worked together to get the dock rebuilt and back online Oct. 10, 2014, so its absence wouldn’t cripple the fishing industry that is the community’s lifeblood. The closest major dock is 70 miles away.

“Our focus is to help get money out into the community,” says Scott Pinover of Community Lending and Investment. “This project was just such an important part of their economy, culture, and way of life — and, with the dock out of commission, it was critical that we help them get it back as soon as possible.”

The dock and fishing industry generate an estimated $7 million in annual economic benefits for the Makah tribe, and about 90 small businesses that employ 400 employees rely on it for their livelihood.

The new dock includes 5,600 square feet of warehouse space, plus three large cranes so the tribe can unload five boats at once. It also includes a new ice house, which allows fishermen to stay out longer, fish more, and ultimately get the fish to market faster and fresher.

The facility is not only used by commercial fishermen, but also by sport fishermen, regional commercial fish processing operations, rescue and disaster-response operations, and marine vessel repair services.

Original creosote-treated lumber bulkheads have been replaced with concrete-filled steel bulkheads and other environmentally friendly materials.

‘We all knew we could make a difference’

New commercial fishing dock for Makah tribe
The Makah Tribe’s new dock.

To fund construction of the new dock, Wells Fargo purchased $3.06 million in New Markets Tax Credits from the National Development Council. The credits offer customers below-market-rate financing and more favorable credit terms than conventionally available.

Wells Fargo’s relationship with the Makah Indian tribe began with the Native American Banking Services team but eventually grew to include financial education, cash management, and other services from Business Banking, Wholesale Banking, and many other groups.

Native American Banking Services works with about 290 tribal entities nationwide.

“I remember the chairman of the Makah tribe telling me, ‘Cora, if I have to rebuild this dock with my hands, I will,’” says Cora Gaane of the team. “At that point, I couldn’t promise anything because that’s not my expertise, but we started mobilizing all the team members at Wells Fargo that needed to be involved to make this happen,” she says. “As a team, we all knew we could make a difference, and we did.”

Watch the video to learn more about the Makah, including their history fishing Neah Bay.