Washington Business Winter 2018 | Washington Business - Page 41

washington business “If you don’t have enough people around to maintain [essential infrastructure] you will have a population decline that builds on itself. We’ve seen young people leaving for better opportunities, schools consolidating, basic services starting to crumble. Yet there is real opportunity here if we get creative and work together.” — Alex McGregor, president, The McGregor Company McFadden works with Big Bend Community College and the Othello school districts to close the skills gap and get young people motivated as early as middle school. “These employers don’t need a truckload of students with four-year degrees, but they need employees with trade skills,” he says. “And students need to know that there are jobs.” Kimmell, who works with a number of small communities, echoes McFadden. “You’d be amazed at how nimble the community colleges are,” he says. “It’s exciting to watch them.” competitive business environment Lower land costs and inexpensive energy are a rural Washington competitive edge, as demonstrated by data centers and the BMW carbon-fiber plant in Moses Lake. Sen. Short points out, however, that businesses in rural communities often face higher costs, including those resulting from more distance from suppliers and markets. They also contend with statewide policies affecting land use and the workplace — minimum wage laws and the Growth Management Act — that impose extraordinary burdens on small town small businesses. Echoing a common refrain, Short says local communities need some regulatory flexibility. As well, she was disappointed by the governor’s veto of the reduced manufacturing business and occupation tax rate. Then there’s water. “The Hirst decision has to be resolved,” Short says. She’s referring to the state Supreme Court decision that has jeopardized homeowners’ ability to drill wells, creating significant uncertainty in rural communities. bridging the urban-rural divide In scanning Washington’s economic landscape, the disparity between the thriving metro centers and the many struggling rural communities is unmistakable. But it can also be overstated. There are rural communities that are doing well, providing residents with employment and retail opportunities, good schools, and adequate broadband, water, sewers and roads. But others — too many — are missing one or more of the critical elements they need to capitalize on the opportunities around them. Bridging the economic divide requires a new level of commitment, focus and unde rstanding. With the Rural Jobs Summits, AWB is building that bridge. Washington State Department of Commerce www.commerce.wa.gov Washington State Department of Natural Resources www.dnr.wa.gov Association of Washington Business Rural Jobs Summit www.bit.ly/awbruraljobs Employment Security Department County Unemployment Map https://esd.wa.gov/labormarketinfo/monthly-employment-report winter 2018 41