Lewis County had the opportunity to host a nationally recognized site selector. Business recruitment and retention efforts are showing promise as business in the area is expanding. South Sound Business magazine provides insights and examples of growth and expansion occurring throughout Lewis County. The EDC General Membership Meeting hosted Senator John Braun with his summary of the legislative session.
Site Selector visit
This month we had the pleasure of hosting site selector, Jim Renzas, who works with companies during expansions and relocations. He is the Principal of The RSH Group, Inc. and is a member of the of the Site Selectors Guild. “Guild Membership represents the who’s who of site selectors,” according to Eric Sonnenberg, Lewis EDC. Site selectors play a role in 20% of large business investment deals. They are retained by corporations to search for the site with the most competitive tax structure, workforce, access to markets, and other selection factors. Jim’s past clients include eBay, FedEx Ground, Mercedes Benz, The Home Depot, Sony Corporation and many more. His familiarization tour of Lewis County was a success; we are on his radar for potential future projects.
Business of Lewis County
SOUTH SOUND BUSINESS
By: Antoinette Alexander
Stroll historic downtowns, ride a steam train, explore parks and wilderness areas, or go antique shopping. The Centralia-Chehalis area, and Lewis County in general, has long had something for everyone to do recreationally, regardless of age or interest. And now its growing and diversifying business sector is no exception.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here, whether it be transportation-related business or
the medical field, there are lots of things happening here in Lewis County,” said Matt Matayoshi, executive director of the Lewis Economic Development Council.
Nestled nearly halfway between the Seattle and Portland metro areas and the Pacific Coast and Cascade Mountains, the communities – once known for their dominance of the logging, farming, and mining sectors – are proving to be a great place for modern-day commerce.
Read more here LEWIS EDC
Senator John Braun Reviews state budget at EDC Meeting
BUSINESS TO BUSINESS
By: Buddy Rose
State Senator John Braun, from the 20thDistrict, highlighted the general membership meeting and luncheon of the Lewis County Economic Development Council (EDC) held in Chehalis Oct. 17. Braun provided his take on various positives and several disappointments of the last session of the State Legislature, which ended on April 28 and included passing the operating and capital budgets for the 2019-2021 biennium.
“It was a very frustrating session in many ways,” Braun said. “But there were a few things that came out that I think are good and we should recognize that.”
Topping Braun’s list of positives was mental health. We have been funding mental health for some time but we are now moving away from the large, failing institutions-like Western State in Steilacoom-and focusing more on community-based services, he explained. Local services allow patients to stay close to their homes, families and doctors and help them turn into productive members of our society. It’s good for them and it’s good for all of us, he said.
Another plus is that we did a good job of funding K-12 education, Braun said. Also, we nearly fully-funded the requirements for special education of our children, even though that was not part of the McCleary Decision driving education funding for the past few years. By doing that we quite possibly avoided another lawsuit and it’s the right thing to do for these kids, most of whom simply have learning challenges but are otherwise fully capable of becoming productive members of society, he said.
Braun noted that, for the first time in his tenure, the legislature also put significant money and good guidance for the prevention and suppression of forest fires in our state. The Department of Natural Resources finally came up with a good, long term plan to address current problems and how we can get from where we are now to a safer condition for our communities in the future and a better economic spot for the timber industry and our state trust lands, he added.
On the negative side, Braun described the budget as a disaster. Coming into this session, the budget had grown by 45 percent over the previous three bienniums. That’s twice the rate of growth of personal income in our state-which, incidentally, has the highest personal income growth in the country-and is not sustainable, he said. This year, the majority wanted to raise it another 18 percent.
New taxes will amount to $2.5 billion dollars over the current amount during the next year, he said. Over four years, another $10 billion will be collected and that will amount to $25 billion in ten years. Many of these taxes will not be noticed by most voters right away, he pointed out, such as the increase in Business and Occupation (B & O) tax, but they will pay the bill in the long run via higher prices; it just won’t come to them directly.
Another budget problem is local levies for schools. In order to cover some of the added education costs not covered by state funding, the limit for local school levies was raised by one dollar per thousand of valuation up to a limit of $2,500 per student. Because of the vast difference in overall property values between rural and urban areas, we in this area will likely see our levies increase by the full one dollar limit. In Seattle, the same increase up to $2,500 per student will raise individual property taxes by about ten cents, he said.
Public sector employees also got a big raise through a collective bargaining agreement that was already decided upon before the start of budget negotiations, Braun said. Although he agreed we need to pay our public employees fairly, the $1.5 billion that cost might have been put to a better use elsewhere, he said. Before that raise, average public sector employee wages in our state were already higher than private sector wages in 38 of 39 counties, Braun noted.
Things left undone include any reasonable solutions for the homeless problem along with affordable housing. Nothing was done for the developmentally disabled, and with our mental health facilities being decertified, we are losing federal funding. Braun said he’s also concerned about what might happen when our current hot economy goes into recession-which is inevitable. “We can’t sustain our current spending,” he said.
During a question and answer session with Braun, Lewis County Commissioner Gary Stamper said the Growth Management Act (GMA) is making it difficult for people to find affordable housing and asked whether a legislative fix is possible. Braun said the GMA will not be going away under the current legislative mindset but they need to work on modifications to it that will improve the housing situation.
Luke Moerke added that the new energy codes being mandated for building are unrealistic and won’t help with making housing affordable. Braun said the problem is the state building code council is being as touted and used as a national platform for addressing global warming and related environmental issues and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
In other business at the meeting, EDC Executive Director Matt Matayoshi reported Skookumchuck Wind Energy continues in its construction phase of 38 turbines that are rated at 137 megawatts. UNFI (United Natural Foods, Inc.) in Centralia is operational and its “pretty impressive” to see that 1.2 million square foot facility, he said. Tarragon, a developer active in our area, is grading and preparing a 60-acre site in Chehalis to be shovel-ready and announced plans for a building for a truss company in the Port of Centralia’s Park II, Matayoshi added. He also reminded attendees that the first unit shutdown of TransAlta is scheduled for Dec. 2020, transitioning to a total shutdown in 2025.