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Wild Olympics is good for business

More than 100 Olympic Peninsula and South Puget Sound CEOs and local businesses from multiple sectors of the economy have announced their support for the Wild Olympics Campaign, adding to the long list of local businesses already backing the campaign.

Nine CEOs and nearly 100 new business endorsers from the Olympic Peninsula and South Puget Sound Region are the latest local economic leaders to urge permanent protection of Olympic National Forest’s scenic backcountry, rivers and streams. In a letter to Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA06), the heads of Pasha Shipping (Aberdeen), Paladin Data Systems (Poulsbo), HOPE Roofing & Construction (Port Townsend), Rice Fergus Miller Inc (Bremerton), The Holiday Inn Express and Conference Center (Sequim), SAGE Fly Rods (Bainbridge Island), Grounds For Change (Poulsbo), Green Mountain Technologies (Bainbridge Island) and Taylor Shellfish (Shelton) urged the lawmakers to quickly reintroduce The Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to safeguard the Olympic Peninsula’s ancient forests and free-flowing rivers.

The CEOs point out that the area’s natural treasures, which provide world-class outdoor recreation, clean water and the area’s high quality of living “give us a competitive edge over other regions in attracting and retaining the talented people our companies require.” Wilderness and wild and scenic river protection “would help protect the 500-plus local jobs that depend on our ability to compete for talent against other regions, and they would enhance our recruitment efforts to grow our businesses in the future.”

Nearly 100 new local business endorsements were also sent in a separate letter urging swift reintroduction of the Wild Olympics legislation to protect and grow local jobs in multiple sectors of the economy. The business owners and economic leaders say the legislation would both protect and create local jobs in shipping and trade, construction, real estate, fishing, information technology, the shellfish industry, tourism, manufacturing and other sectors of the region’s economy.

In urging early reintroduction of the measure, the CEOs point to the findings in a November 2012 report by the independent, non-partisan Headwaters Economics Institute “West Is Best: Protected Lands Promote Jobs and Higher Incomes -How Public Lands in the West Create a Competitive Economic Advantage.” The report found that protected public lands are key to attracting companies, entrepreneurs and workers and that national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other protected public lands in the Western US have enhanced the competitive advantages of high-tech and professional services companies – a major reason why the western economy has outperformed the rest of the U.S. economy in employment, population, and personal income over the last four decades.

The CEO letter also notes another 2012 Headwaters Institute report that found similar trends locally. It showed growth of over 5,000 new jobs on the Olympic Peninsula over the last ten years in trade and shipping, health care, education, business services, real estate, construction and other sectors, and found strong population growth from new residents drawn by the Peninsula’s high quality of living. The study reported job growth across multiple sectors of the local economy including those represented by the 225 local businesses now backing the Wild Olympics Campaign.

The new CEO and local business endorsements capped a wave of additional support pouring in for the Wild Olympics Campaign in recent weeks from Visit Kitsap Peninsula, mountain bike, climbing, paddling, hunting and fishing organizations and more than 80 local faith leaders representing 10 different religious denominations. Currently, over 450 elected officials, local farms and businesses, conservation and recreation groups and faith leaders have endorsed the Wild Olympics proposal.

Al Carter is a former Grays Harbor County commissioner and an advocate for the Wild Olympics Campaign. More information on the proposal is available at http://www.wildolympics.org.