OPINION: Wyoming’s Investment in Washington State’s Future

Lee Newgent of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, offers support for terminal expansions in Bellingham and Longview


Lee Newgent, April 9, 2015, Washington State Wire

Earlier this month, the Wyoming Legislature approved a measure to allow its state agency to issue up to $1 billion in bonds to finance construction of energy export terminals in the Pacific Northwest.


Washington State is at an economic crossroads.  With more than 94,000 new jobs created over the last year and unemployment holding around 6 percent during the last few months, it is imperative that we keep this positive momentum going by any means necessary. Wyoming’s commitment and support to bolstering Washington’s trade infrastructure is exactly those means.


Trade and its necessary infrastructure account for one in four jobs in the Evergreen state and our members work throughout the Northwest on the infrastructure projects that are the foundational bedrock of much of Washington’s economic success. As Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, I know that the northwest needs the new investments and infrastructure that will come with port expansion.


Today, over a billion dollars in new private investments have been proposed to expand shipping at existing Northwest ports. Just one of these terminals alone is expected to support 1,350 direct jobs and $70 million in direct wages.  Indirect impacts in the local, regional and state economies resulting from the construction of the export facility are estimated to be an additional 1,300 jobs and $65 million in wages.


Our members across the building trades have been suffering unemployment rates of 30-40 percent and higher for more than three years. No other projects on the horizon hold the promise of such a scale and provide benefits over such a long lasting time frame. By securing the future of these proposed export terminals, we will bring back industrial manufacturing jobs to Washington. An opportunity to get people back to work and providing good family wages cannot be taken lightly.


Additionally, these new terminal facilities are an opportunity for the Pacific Northwest to expand our multi-commodity trade with the rest of the world.  While the investment will support energy export through the terminals, these investments will aid other bulk commodity industries, like agriculture. As Washington’s second largest export industry, the availability of new markets will expand industries like agriculture and energy that rely on our work to keep the wheels turning.


Finally, we cannot overlook the millions in new tax dollars annually that will flow into the public schools, government agencies and social programs that make our home so great. The reality is this issue is much bigger than any single commodity.  It is about the real people and real households who understand the need for good paying jobs, plus the benefit of new industry and new taxes.


The critical private investment for our ports and railroads will ultimately lay the groundwork for future trade growth and even more private investment and job creation in Washington State.  The choices we’re making today about infrastructure will dictate future opportunities for generations to come. The Washington Building Trade Council and its proud members are ready to build, expand and protect our communities through trade infrastructure. We are hopeful Washington takes a page out of Wyoming’s playbook and supports the expansion of these projects.



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