The key word in discussing our path forward has been jobs. We’re not just talking about any jobs, but those types of companies and investments that bring outside dollars into our area and generate quality wages and additional jobs to support those workers. Key areas that have the most potential for supporting this type of investment are the ports and in the Discovery Corridor.
The Port of Vancouver’s significant investment in infrastructure is already paying off with BHP Billiton’s potash facility that will likely begin this summer or early fall. The Sewer Alliance is generating a lot of confidence that the Discovery Corridor will be able to meet these needs as well in the not too distant future. East Vancouver and the Port of Camas-Washougal are showing great potential. There is also the huge long-term investment potential in Vancouver’s Waterfront. Each of these great projects carries with it some degree of risk and uncertainty. That is why it is important that we, as business leaders, work hard now to create and maintain an investment environment that will attract the types of employers we need.
What needs to happen?
From the contracting community’s perspective, it’s important that we both prepare for and provide for opportunities for local contractors to compete for these projects. Whether it’s a multi-billion dollar bridge project or utility improvements, we have the local talent, resources and expertise to do the job. The SWCA is very encouraged to work with BHP Billiton (and BergerABAM), who reached out to provide local contractors and vendors with information on how to get involved with the potash project. We encourage other project owners and managers to follow this same path. In the “no favorites” environment of public works, it’s also important that local contractors become organized and educated as well. We have appreciated the input and presentations from local jurisdictions on this topic and expect that to continue.
Infrastructure investment is key
The recent progress with the Sewer Alliance is a great example and step forward in building the pieces necessary to attract business investment. Those involved should be praised for looking beyond their individual and immediate interests to realize a greater good for both themselves and the region. It is incumbent upon the elected, government and business leaders to make the other necessary improvements for investment to take place when the project is complete.
Eliminate redundancy and over-regulation
We understand that most view over-regulation as a constant cry from the development community, but those in the business know that the majority of time is spent on developing new regulations and not enough on reviewing current regulations for redundancies and inefficiencies. Regulation is critical for both quality of life and safety, but each regulation also adds direct and indirect costs to potential projects in both time and money. While activity is slow, this is the perfect time to review existing regulations and identify those sections of code and processes that don’t add to a beneficial outcome. The Responsible Growth Forum is already working on such a study and the county has done some good work on this front with respect to employment zones. A comprehensive analysis of local regulations and subsequent action are key to improving local investment.
Business Associations like the Chamber, CREDC, ICC, CCAR, BIA and SWCA are working together in unprecedented fashion to insure that our potential as a region is met. It is critical that the individual members of these associations and groups voice their opinions and insights to their respective representatives so that a more accurate and productive solutions can be reached. We all have a part in getting to where we need to go next.
Mike Bomar is the executive director for the Southwest Washington Contractors Association, a Commercial Construction Trade Association representing nearly 300 businesses in Southwest Washington. He can be reached at Mike@swca.org.