Bringing manufacturing jobs back to Washington

Over the last 40 years or so, northeast Washington has seen some of the highest unemployment numbers in the state.  In August 2017, Ferry County led the state with 9.6 percent unemployment, with Stevens and Pend Oreille counties in the top ten at 6 percent.

There was a time when northeast Washington was a state leader in income per capita as its economy was very resource driven. Mining, logging, paper products, ranching and farming all added to a very vibrant and successful local economy. Over the last half century, however, much of the local economy has been devastated by new land use rules, overzealous environmental regulations, and an increasing regulatory burden on small businesses and manufacturers.

For legislators in the 7th Legislative District, economic development isn’t just a catchphrase or for the occasional photo op; it’s vital to the very survival of their constituents and their way of life.

Rep. Shelly Short (now Sen. Shelly Short), pictured left, has made rural economic development a cornerstone of her legislative efforts in Olympia. As both a former ranking Republican on the House Environment Committee and the House Republican Caucus Chair, she has been a leader in bringing common-sense solutions to help provide and maintain clean air, water and energy, while at the same time trying to protect and attract family-wage jobs.

At the beginning of the 2017 session, HiTest Sand approached Short and her legislative assistant Jacquelin Maycumber (now Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber), pictured right, about the possibility of building a new silicon production facility somewhere in northeast Washington.

The result of these meetings was legislation sponsored by Short to give a tax incentive to silicon smelters to lower the cost of energy. The bill received broad bipartisan support in the House where the City of Chewelah, the Chewelah School District and IBEW 77 testified in support of the measure. It was eventually rolled into an omnibus revenue bill, Senate Bill 5977, which passed on June 30, 2017.

In October of 2017, HiTest Sand formally announced their plans to local a new silicon production facility in Pend Oreille County and have started the permitting process.  While under construction, the plant is expected to create around 400 construction jobs. After completion, HiTest says it will employ about 150 workers at family-wage rates for the next 50 years.

At a public meeting in October 2017, Short made the emotional announcement that family-wage jobs were indeed coming back to northeast Washington. Her efforts to bring more manufacturing jobs to rural Washington are not over, but they will leave a lasting legacy as the economies in her rural district continue to recover and prosper.