Gov. Jay Inslee says Grays Harbor is perfectly positioned to improve its job outlook utilizing a strong Port and community leaders who are willing to do what’s necessary to thrive.
Speaking before a packed audience inside the Rotary Log Pavilion in Aberdeen at the State of Grays Harbor, hosted by Greater Grays Harbor, Inc.; Inslee said that Grays Harbor “is the engine for job creation in the state.”
“We’ve got entrepreneurial people here on the Harbor,” Inslee told the audience. “I see John Plaza, who is doing some good work at Imperium Renewables. I know we have challenges at the paper mill, but I know we have people willing to tackle those challenges and try new things. We have panel companies doing new technologies and all these things are up and down. When we start new technologies, it’s up or down. The aircraft industry was up or down for a while, but we have people willing to step up to the plate and tackle new entrepreneurial challenges.”
Inslee pointed out, “It doesn’t matter who’s in charge in Washington, D.C. — Republicans or Democrats. It doesn’t matter what year it is. This Port will always be the closest to Asia, no matter what happens.”
Inslee said he felt confident that the Port was proving itself as “an incredible asset.”
“Who would have thought 20 years ago that the state of Washington would ship its 100,000th car shipped to Asia?” Inslee said. “That is a pretty good thing coming out of Grays Harbor. And at the Satsop Business Park, we have 30 entrepreneurs who are trying new things and bringing their energies with a little capital to try and build new businesses. And that is a really exciting thing to me. You want to see America in action? Go take a look at that business park, where people mortgage everything they’ve got to start a new dream. And, you know, not all of it is going to work out. That’s America, too. But some of them in the area and will build whole new industries and I want to be there to help.”
But Inslee said it’ll take bi-partisan cooperation and a friendly state operating budget that eliminates tax breaks for those who simply aren’t creating jobs. With the state Legislature on a two-week break before it reconvenes, he’s calling on residents to make sure their local legislators know that “we cannot and will not budget the balance on the backs of children and the elderly.”
“Our simple challenge — and I want to help everyone in Grays Harbor to work for it — is we want our kids staying here,” Inslee said. “We don’t want to educate them and have them driving up to Seattle or Tacoma. We want them to have a future here. We want to have our grandkids here. And I think we have good opportunities on the Harbor for a lot of good reasons. I look at this.”
Also speaking Monday at the State of Grays Harbor was Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. CEO Tim Gibbs, who called on Harborites to work together on divisive issues to help push down the county’s 13.1 percent unemployment rate.
“While it’s understandable we won’t always agree, we can no longer afford to fight each other,” Gibbs said. “Our community has lots its ability to talk to each other. … We have to find ways to find collective solutions.”
Congressman Derek Kilmer also told the audience that the gridlock in Congress must stop because it’s hurting rural communities like the Harbor. And, to the applause of the audience, he said that it is possible to help the environment and increase harvest levels in the federal forest at the same time.
“I see a forest products industry, while smaller than it used to be, remains a critical leg of our economic development stool,” Kilmer said. “I’ve been out to the mill at Cosmopolis and Rayonier and Sierra Pacific and we need to take steps that strengthen our timber industry.”
Kilmer also said that needless regulations that hurt small businesses need to be re-examined, specifically citing regulations that treat Craisins produced in Markham as candy, instead of dried fruit.
“They’re both super tasty but one is more healthy,” Kilmer said. “One is a fruit product. And they need to get that.”
Kilmer also cited a tax that ports pay known as the Harbor Maintenance Tax, which should be going to help infrastructure at places like the Port of Grays Harbor, but he says is often used for other purposes. And he touted his own new legislation designed to help workers save money for education and job training through the establishment of worker-owned, employer-matched savings plans called Lifelong Learning Accounts.
Gov. Inslee said after the forum that he is hopeful a potential new drone testing bed could be located on the Harbor, producing more revenue for the Port of Grays Harbor and, perhaps, a source of more jobs. His office is competing on a federal proposal for the idea.
He said he’s also not taken a firm “pro or can” stance on the potential crude by rail proposals coming to the Port.
“I do think there’s a distinction between exporting to other countries, particularly for a large expansion of major industries change snow going on in Asia for coal, and transportation infrastructure for domestic use,” Inslee said in an interview. “I look at those a little differently. The public is going to have a say on this and there’s going to be a lot of input from people and we’re going to have a permit process to give people a chance for input.”