December 27, 2017
2017 Year in Review

Economic expansion the focus of first-ever statewide Rural Jobs Summit

Each one of Washington’s 39 counties includes rural regions – areas being left behind in the economic recovery being realized in the central Puget Sound region. While Washington is not unique in this issue, AWB Government Affairs Director Mike Ennis took the initiative to bring agency and legislative leaders, business owners and local government officials to Olympia in March for a half-day discussion on the barriers and solutions to expanding economic opportunity to every town across the state.

Seventy people joined AWB that day to start the long-overdue conversation on rural jobs creation. That meeting spawned support for a statewide Rural Jobs Summit that took place Oct. 23-24 at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake. More than 200 attendees – including 23 lawmakers from both sides of the state and both parties – filled the room to hear 50 issue experts on 13 panels cover topics ranging from attracting capital to rural counties, broadband and airport infrastructure and access to water in light of the 2016 state Supreme Court Hirst ruling.

The Rural Jobs Summit began with Alex McGregor, president of a century-old agricultural company and staunch defender of farm families and rural communities.

While it is true that the economy is going gangbusters in parts of Washington, it's not the case in other places, McGregor told a packed meeting. But, he said of the leaders and small-town advocates in the room, “Together, we've got a lot of kinetic energy. Let's focus it and make sparks fly.”

The final panel included legislative leaders from the House and Senate who discussed the need for a fix to the Hirst ruling and the need to reinstate the business and occupation (B&O) tax reduction for manufacturers passed as part of the budget deal this year and later vetoed by the governor.

Each of the lawmakers agreed that reinstating some form of the B&O tax reduction and a bipartisan solution to the Hirst ruling could be on the table in 2018.

The day ended on a positive note, as AWB Vice President, Government Affairs Gary Chandler closed out the event: "I can't say it as well as Alex [McGregor] said it this morning, but I believe there are brighter days ahead, if we work together. There is no issue raised today that cannot be solved."

TVW has all panel videos posted online. Watch them here.

Watch the highlight video of the event and contact Ennis at 360.943.1600 to learn more about the work the new Rural Task Force is doing to find solutions to create jobs in rural regions in Washington state.

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