Two Ballard seafood businesses are leaving Seattle

SEATTLE — Two seafood businesses are leaving Ballard – and Seattle.

Keyport Foods announced its move to Edmonds on Monday and KIRO7 found out Wednesday that Ocean Beauty Seafoods will move to Renton in just a couple of weeks.

Ocean Beauty Seafoods is one of the largest seafood processors in North America, specializing in wild Alaskan salmon. And after more than 100 years, the company is leaving Seattle. People say it's another sign of the city – and in particular, Ballard - is changing.

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When it comes to Seattle traffic, no neighborhood is immune. And people who have to regularly commute to Ballard say it’s one of the worst areas to access.

It is “kind of frustrating, yeah, we don’t like coming down here really,” said Greg Georgas, a Seattle native. His electric work regularly brings him to Ballard.

David Wiehle of Wiehle Industries, who works in marine repair, said, “Historically there's been no good way to get here, and now it's really bad. The traffic is terrible and this little road right here, it's just constant, steady, it's like a highway now.”

That traffic is one of the reasons why Ocean Beauty Seafoods says it’s moving out.

It used to just be a store on Seattle’s waterfront, but its seafood processing has operated out of its Ballard location since 1978.

"Ocean Beauty is something of an institution," said Paul Hutzler, who has lived in Ballard for 20 years, and has worked right next to Ocean Beauty for as long.
"The ships come right in, they offload right here, the fish are processed and go out to all the grocery stores and restaurants," he said.

Now the Ocean Beauty says it's expanding and it considered remodeling its current building, but with big traffic challenges along their trucking routes, the company decided pick a new location  in Renton. Its corporate offices will stay in Ballard.

“Our primary reason for moving is expansion. Both our distribution and smoked salmon operations have outgrown this location. We could remodel this building to accommodate, but that would leave us with the same poor trucking logistics. So we decided it made more sense to expand in an area where we have easier access to the freeways and airport,” said Tom Sunderland, a spokesperson for Ocean Beauty.

The change will also relocate about 130 employees.

“That’s part of the heritage of Ballard, the maritime industry here, and it's a shame to see some of the changes that are happening in the city are driving out the heritage of Ballard,” Hutzler said.

Another seafood company, Keyport Foods, which produces king, snow and Dungeness crab, is also leaving the neighborhood. It will relocate to Edmonds.
Keyport's CEO said in a statement that reasons include Seattle's "increasingly challenging business climate" and traffic.

It's “a little bit sad,” Wiehle said. “Ballard has definitely changed -- all the big buildings and everything is changing. You can't stop the change,” he said.

Ocean Beauty also has a smoked fish operation in Monroe that employees 70-80 people, and that facility will not be impacted by the Ballard to Renton move.