Brown bill on building business ecosystems heard in Senate committee

The Senate Financial Institutions, Economic Development and Trade Committee today heard a bill sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown that would give local governments the ability to create business ecosystem areas to stimulate economic development.

Senate Bill 5564 would create and finance local public improvement projects aimed at encouraging economic development or redevelopment. As part of the program, a sponsoring local government – a city, town or county – designates a local revitalization area.  Increases in revenues from local sales, use and property taxes within that designated area are measured and used to pay for public improvements.  State funding for the program is provided through a credit against the state sales and use tax.

“This is a tool in the box for economic development, in a time when there aren’t many tools in the box. I have seen firsthand how this program has benefited my local economy and would like to see it reinstituted,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “This mechanism has proven to be successful in both the Southridge Revitalization Area as well as the Richland Preferred Freezer project.  These projects resulted in the creation of over one thousand family wage jobs and generated millions of dollars of revenue.” 

Leaders from the Tri-Cities traveled to Olympia to testify about the benefits of this program and the need to have the program reestablished.   

Diahann Howard, Director of Economic Development and Government Relations for the Port of Benton said in her testimony “This program has created 650 new jobs that are directly from the investment improvement zone. It has opened up industrial property and our next step is to recruit clean energy manufacturers. This keeps our skilled workers and trades right here in Washington State.”

Mayor of Kennewick Don Britain added “This bill will leverage state and use taxes to promote development and stimulate our economies. These projects create jobs and provide income to families in need. This program has been proven to work – locally in Kennewick, the state has received over $17 million from the original $3 million investment. This is a 500 percent return. The state can use that money in the operating budget to fund any priorities they deem necessary. The investment also created over 400 jobs in Kennewick”