Last week, an article in the Vancouver Business Journal featured comments from the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) who forecast that 2017 will be a year of growth and success for Southwest Washington. The piece pointed to major infrastructure projects like Millennium Bulk Terminals’ export dock as a source of this success. These projects, they write, are poised to bring economic growth to some of the state’s poorest areas, however, they face several challenges to achieving that growth.
The piece discusses Southwest Washington’s economic outlook by county, and 2017 looks to be a good year for Cowlitz. The past several years have seen capital investment pouring in to the area, and the results have begun to show. As the article notes, “1,364 new jobs” were added in 2016 and “total potential industrial investment is about $4 billion.”
Despite this growth, the county’s unemployment rate remains well above the state average at 7.2 percent, and many of the projects expected to bring that number down face Washington’s challenging regulatory landscape.
Ted Sprague, executive director of the Cowlitz County Economic Development Council, commented on the onerous regulatory environment in Washington, saying that “consistency and timeliness of permitting” is the biggest challenge facing Cowlitz County. “There doesn’t seem to be a real urgency on behalf of our permitting partners,” he added.
Southwest Washington has all of the pieces in place for a successful 2017, and yet the state continues to cripple essential infrastructure investments with overreaching regulatory protocols. The good news is that this year we will see the release of the final state and federal Environmental Impact Statements on Millennium’s project. After nearly five years of waiting, it is time to let this critical development put folks in the community back to work.
Read the full piece here.