Job diversification tops list of development priorities

Major metropolitan centers in Washington, and most of the nation, have been experiencing thousands of layoffs. However, diversification efforts by TRIDEC and its economic development partners have positioned the Tri-Cities to be able to weather the recent economic recession with just a few scraps and bruises.

A positive influence on the Tri-City economy is the fact that it consists of stable, recession-proof industries that shelter it – mainly food, government and energy production. While construction and financial industries are hurting right now, over-the-year comparisons show the Tri-Cities gained 1,800 nonfarm jobs.

In these times of economic uncertainty, competition for facilities is fierce. This past year, TRIDEC responded to 78 businesses seeking information about the area, from what properties and services are available to demographics and worker availability. Although many companies narrow the list of potential sites in a few months, some cases are managed over a much longer period. The nature of the business means most recruitment is done behind closed doors because of proprietary information, taking hundred of hours that sometimes can end abruptly.

This year, TRIDEC made the final cut on two significant projects. However, when the economic downturn started, many nationwide projects, including those two, were put on hold. Much of TRIDEC’s focus last year went to trying to encourage AREVA to build its new uranium enrichment plant in the Tri-Cities — only to have the company announce it would go to Idaho. While we did not get that particular deal, the good news is that AREVA will continue to be a major players in our community, and our relationship with the corporation remains solid.

TRIDEC employees will continue attending marketing and sales trips outside the state and collaborate with the state’s Community, Trade and Economic Development office on Team Washington trips to market the state.

Whole TRIDEC spends a large amount of time recruiting businesses to the area, our Commerce Appreciation, Retention and Expansion (CARE) division continues visiting existing manufacturing companies in Benton and Franklin counties to determine what needs they have, future plans and how TRIDEC might help them.

Our new public relations committee has been meeting monthly and is focusing on ways to raise the the visibility of the Tri-Cities in media markets both in and out of state. The committee is working with Horizon Airlines to add “Tri-Cities” to the Pasco moniker in all of its marketing materials. Public service announcements have been recorded with local GAP Broadcasting stations entitled “Tri-Cities: The Bright Spot in the State.” And this month, KONA radio began working with TRIDEC on an hour-long call-in radio show.

This past year, we have actively communicated with business owners, senior managers and decision makers within successful, growing companies, and the individuals that assist these firms in new facility decisions. We will continue identifying expansion and relocation candidates, refining our databases and keep concentrating our direct marketing and sales activities geographically.

TRIDEC worked with our congressional delegation on language in a letter sent to the National Guard signed by every member of the state’s delegation and included the governor requesting HAMMER Training Facility be designated as the western regional training center for National Guard Civil Support Teams and related training. Having this designation would not only highlight HAMMER and the Tri-Cities, but also would be good for the state to be identified as the location for their western regional training center.

And Hanford cleanup will be on the receiving end of almost $2 billion in extra funding through the federal stimulus package.

Finally, TRIDEC will continue working with our congressional delegation and DOE headquarters to reach a decision on the Mission Support Contract so we can attain some normalcy out at the site.

Source: Tri-City Herald Progress 2009

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