Lawmakers, Labor Leaders: Protect Cherry Point Industrial Area

Washington Legislative Rail Caucus highlights vital role Cherry Point, rail play in exports

BLAINE — During a tour this morning of the Cherry Point Industrial Area, legislative leaders, alongside representatives from labor and business, discussed the economic importance of the region to the state’s trade and economic future.

Part of building a strong infrastructure in the state is the bolstering of rail lines to move commodities throughout Washington, said state Rail Caucus co-chairs Reps. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace, and Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg. The representatives were part of a 50-person contingent who toured the Northwest Washington industrial zone. Keep Washington Competitive, a pro-trade coalition of labor and business interests, also participated in the tour.

“We should be looking for a variety of infrastructure investments, including rail, to bolster the economy outside of the immediate Puget Sound region,” Rep. Moscoso said. “Rail plays an integral role in our trade and export system. It provides hundreds of good paying, family-wage jobs. We should not overlook the importance it plays in moving our agricultural goods from around the state to foreign markets. In fact, we should be looking for ways to enhance investments in our rail infrastructure.”

Manweller called the tour “insightful,” noting outside efforts to enhance the area with private investments continue to be met with regulatory delays and challenges by the state.

“Washington state’s regulatory climate is not helping manufacturers – in fact, it’s hastening their demise. Just look at the recent announcement by Alcoa and the idling of the smelter in Ferndale,” said Manweller. “Our regulatory processes are essentially facilitating a de-industrialization of our state’s economy, and for areas like Cherry Point and Whatcom County, that means the loss of good family-wage jobs. Those jobs don’t just reappear overnight. The Cherry Point Industrial Area is a critical piece of our state’s manufacturing economy.  We need to focus on ways to maximize existing industrial areas to attract and retain businesses that will grow the local economy and create sustainable employment.”

“Whatcom County is hurting.  Just last month, Alcoa announced it was curtailing its Intalco Works in Ferndale, leaving 500 people without jobs, adding to our already high unemployment rate. That’s why we must do all we can to enhance and invest in the Cherry Point Industrial Area as a major economic catalyst for our county,” said Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden, who participated in the day’s tour. “My focus right now is to find new ways to attract family-wage jobs to our county, and one way to do that is to invest in rail and in the Cherry Point Industrial Area.”

Herb Krohn of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail Transportation (SMART) Division/United Transportation Union (UTU), called the day’s visit eye-opening.

“We should be doing everything we can to ensure the success of the Cherry Point Industrial Area by investing in rail and the family-wage jobs it promotes,” said Krohn. “This state needs a multi-dimensional economic plan. Cherry Point could be a catalyst for real economic development, if we take the right steps soon.”