Business and Manufacturing Leaders on Washington’s Regulatory Environment and Stimulating Growth

While most Washingtonians know firsthand how much trade impacts our state’s economy, it certainly drives the message home when business leaders here in the Evergreen State are echoed by thought leaders at the national level. Last week, the Puget Sound Business Journal published a joint op-ed by KWC board member Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, and Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, examining potential impacts of onerous review protocols in Washington and specifically the negative effects they could have on the state’s already stressed economy.

It’s no secret job growth stagnation and flat wages are hindering development in Washington. And while there are many proposed solutions to these problems, the authors argue that one thing is clear: “the simple fact is the United States, and workers in Washington specifically, are losing out to foreign competition.”

Johnson and Timmons point to Washington’s clumsy regulatory process as the culprit. They argue that these processes not only prevent projects from coming to fruition, and place significant hurdles in front of others, such as the proposed export terminal planned for Longview –, but they set a dangerous precedent that could hurt Washington’s business climate going forward.

Of particular concern to the authors is the scope of review to which the Department of Ecology is holding Millennium. The reviewing organizations for Millennium’s project took an unprecedented step to hold the firm responsible for the end use emissions of the coal that it would ship. Johnson and Timmons question what setting this bar could mean for future business endeavors in the state:

“What will this mean for future infrastructure projects? Will the next project have to account for how cars are driven in foreign markets? The impact of different types livestock feed on agricultural emissions? The energy consumption and related emissions from foreigners plugging in their U.S.-made electronics?”

Many world-renowned corporations including Microsoft, Boeing, and Darigold call Washington home for a large amount of their business operations. Asking them to mitigate greenhouse emissions for any proposed expansions, acquisitions, or other construction-intensive developments would surely not bode well for their intentions to remain in the state. Further, the cumbersome regulations could discourage newcomers from investing here.

At a time when unemployment is nearly twice as high in rural counties like Cowlitz and Wahkiakum than the Puget sound region, infrastructure projects like Millennium’s proposal are precisely what are needed. The terminal would create hundreds of good-paying jobs that can support families. Not to mention the local and state tax revenue it would generate would contribute to improving schools and hospitals in the region. Leaders in Washington should recognize that it is their responsibility to facilitate this kind of growth, not disable it with mountains of red tape and bureaucracy.