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It's About the Economy in Western Washington

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It's About the Economy in Western Washington

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Letters to the Editor, South Whidbey Record

Dear Editor:

A slow economy is squeezing the middle class. With 8.2 million Americans looking for work and nearly two million private sector jobs lost in the last three years, one of my top priorities is to assist local communities with their economic development efforts to create jobs.

The effort to maintain jobs in the Pacific Northwest must include creating opportunities and ensuring fairness for the middle class. Our success will be based upon investments we make in technology, manufacturing and infrastructure while we create incentives for businesses to create jobs here at home.

I am committed to boosting college opportunities and making it more affordable. That is why I have called for an increase to Pell Grant funding, the number one form of federal financial aid that helps middle class families send their kids to schools like Western Washington University or any of our great community and technical colleges.

We need to couple that investment with an effort to foster emerging technologies that will create the next wave of high-paying jobs. We need to renew our commitment to innovation by investing in science, engineering and math in order to promote the research that is the foundation of our economic growth.

I support maintaining our manufacturing base to create good-paying jobs. I have been working to save jobs at the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter in Ferndale by fighting against a power rate increase that the Bonneville Power Administration proposed in 2003. Workers at Boeing, Alcoa, Weyerhaeuser and other large and small local businesses are impacted by the region's sky-high energy costs.

I continue to work to ensure that good-paying Boeing jobs exist in Snohomish County well into the future. Our state boasts the best-trained, most experienced aerospace manufacturing workers in the world. Boeing reinforced this fact with its decision to assemble its new 7E7 Dreamliner at its plant in Everett.

Mid-size and small manufacturers, like the many shipbuilders in the area, deserve support. I supported efforts to help small businesses and the workforce in Western Washington. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) helps many local manufacturers become more efficient and increase productivity. The Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) in Mount Vernon and Bellingham serve as community resources for local businesses and entrepreneurs to help them make strategic investment decisions and improve their businesses.

An investment in local transportation infrastructure is an investment in our local economy. I am working to ensure that there is adequate federal support for our local transportation needs. Every $1 billion in transportation investment creates 47,000 direct and indirect jobs. In addition, I am working to increase transportation alternatives to lessen congestion. Less congestion helps employers move the freight and goods they need and lets employees spend less time caught in traffic and more time at home.

I am committed to helping those who are getting hurt the most in this economy. That is why I supported extending unemployment benefits for workers who are having trouble finding new work. I support extending trade adjustment assistance to high-tech and other service workers who lose their jobs due to outsourcing.

Finally, middle class families deserve tax relief that rewards their work, shifts the tax burden off of their backs, and provides incentives for companies to create jobs at home. That is why I voted for middle class tax cuts and advocated for fiscal responsibility in the federal budget.

I will continue to work with businesses, both large and small, their employees, and experts in economic development to make sure I am doing all I can to strengthen the economy. Working together, we can stop the 'middle class squeeze' and create the kind of state where people can live work and raise a family.

Rick Larsen

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