Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Economic Development’ Category

WSDOT: Freight Rail Fixes Are Key, But Funding Is Iffy

by Matt Rosenberg January 13th, 2014

Freight rail can continue to be a carbon-conserving boon to the environment and economy in Washington state versus higher-polluting trucked freight, and will benefit from at least $419 million in publicly-sourced improvements and repairs through 32 completed projects by 2018. But at least another $1.5 billion in identified freight rail improvements is needed by 2030 in the state, and likely more, with funding sources currently unclear.

Meanwhile, the main intercity passenger rail route serving Washington, the Amtrak Cascades train connecting Seattle to Vancouver B.C. and Portland, will see $744 million in investment by 2018, mainly from federal stimulus money for so-called “high-speed rail.” Overall, the state wants $6.7 billion for Cascades improvements by 2030 although the return on investment is far less evident than for the envisioned freight rail spending. These are among the key takeaways from 492 pages of information in nine newly-updated ‘technical notes” to the statewide rail plan. That plan is now being finalized by the Washington State Department of Transportation. The final version is expected to be online by month’s end but not necessarily with the technical notes, which currently are provided only to requesters.

Report Accents Ups, Downs of WA’s Economic Climate

by Matt Rosenberg December 23rd, 2013

Every year Washington’s economic data unit takes a good look at where the state ranks nationally on more than 40 key performance measures, and the latest report card came out late last week. It shows that in 2012 Washington had the cheapest business electricity in the nation, the third cleanest drinking water systems, was fifth best on research and development spending, remained third in foreign exports, and was in the top quintile on per capita visits to state parks and recreation areas. But our performance lagged on unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation costs, unemployment rate, condition of interstate highways, and college-going rates. We could also do better on air quality. Overall, our state leans more toward the second-tier of five, than first, the report suggests.

These are among the takeaways from the Washington State Economic Climate Study for 2013, issued December 20 by the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. The idea of digging into the data, says the council, is that business is responsible for increasing productivity, but government policies help set the table for success. The study includes several dozen 50-state rankings on core indicators drawn mainly from blue-chip federal government data sources for the most recent and the four preceding years, plus explanations of how the measures are calculated and why they matter. Following are some highlights.


Selected WA Rankings for the 50 states – Source: WA ERFC, Dec. 2013
‘08 ‘09 ‘10 ‘11 ‘12 Ave.
Drinking Water 8 2 1 1 3 1
Elec. Prices – Cmmrcl./Indstrl. 5 1 1 2 1 2
Exports 3 2 3 3 3 3
Exports, No Jets 6 8 8 8 7 9
State Parks & Rec. Site Visits 5 5 5 7 8 5
Toxins Released 15 6 12 10 10 11
Air Quality 1 23 23 25 22 22
College-Going – 2 & 4-yr. schools 24 24 27 28 30 28
Unemp. Rate 25 32 35 35 33 33
Unemp. Costs 44 42 46 39 28 42

Some Strong Points
Blessed with abundant hydropower, Washington’s weighted average industrial and commercial price of electricity per kilowatt hour in 2012 was 6.17 cents, the lowest in the nation. Idaho was next lowest at 6.27 cents. At the opposite end of the scale, highest prices after Hawaii and Alaska were in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and California. It was the third of the last five years that Washington had the lowest cost.

Exports
Washington in 2012 also held its rank as third greatest exporter in the U.S. measured in export dollar value as a percent of state personal income; bested only by Louisiana and Texas. Using that same yardstick but filtering out transportation equipment including Boeing foreign jet deliveries, the state ranked seventh in exports last year behind Louisiana, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Vermont and Alaska. The export data only includes trade in goods that are physically shipped, ruling out some software exports including most by Microsoft.

Clean Drinking Water
The state last year also ranked third lowest of 50 in percent of its population – just one-fifth of one percent – that was served by drinking water systems which were cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, either for exceeding maximum allowed levels of microbial, chemical or radiological contaminants under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act; or for violations of prescribed drinking water treatment methods. Only New Hampshire and Hawaii ranked better in 2012 and Washington is number one on the measure over the last five years combined, improving markedly since 2008 when it was just eighth best, according to the ERFC 2013 report.

Per Capita R & D Spending
Powered more by the private sector than government, Washington was fifth nationally in 2012 in total per capita research and development spending, exceeded only by Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Delaware. Washington’s five-year average rank is fifth.

State Parks Visits
The per capita rate of visits to state parks and state recreation sites in 2012 was far and away the highest in Oregon, followed by South Dakota, Hawaii, Alaska, Nebraska, Wyoming and Washington. The measure is based on total state parks and rec site visits including by tourists, versus the state’s population. Washington’s running five-year national rank is fifth.

Weak Spots
But though Washington did well in some areas, it has room to improve its competitive standing in others, according to the Council’s new report.

Challenges include unemployment insurance costs, worker’s compensation costs, and unemployment rate.

Some High Costs of Doing Business; Plus High Unemployment
Washington slid in 2012 to 38th from 17th in 2008 in controlling the dollar amount of worker’s compensation costs per $100 of payroll. Over the last five years its average ranking is 20th.

It is improving somewhat in unemployment insurance cost contributions collected from employers as a percent of total wages of covered employees, from 44th best in 2008 to 28th best in 2012 but its five-year average ranking is still 42nd.

Washington’s unemployment rate of 8.2 percent in 2012 was only 33rd best in the U.S., the same as its five-year average ranking in that measure.

Hurting Interstates
Our interstate highways are hurting, at least relatively. According to the new ERFC report, nearly seven percent of Washington interstate highway miles were in poor condition in 2011, the most recent year for which data were available. This puts the Evergreen State 44th of 50, a marked drop from the next most recent annual measurement in 2009 when it was 19th.

Not Competitive in College Enrollment
The state’s combined participation rate in two- and four-year colleges was another weak spot. Nationally, 6.4 percent of the population aged 18 and over is enrolled in two- or four-year colleges, versus 6 percent in Washington last year. That put the state 30th of 50, with a five-year average ranking of 28th.

Middling air quality
On air quality we ranked 22nd in 2012. The measure was percent of state population living in so-called “non-attainment areas” where the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards aren’t met. Metropolitan regions must for three years running meet NAAQS benchmarks on carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide in order to avoid being classified as “non-attainment” areas. The state ranked first in 2008 but in every year since has hovered between 22nd and 25th.

Overall, the ERFC report suggests Washington comes out in the wash looking pretty much like a second-tier state, but that’s out of five tiers, or quintiles which divide the 50 states on individual and aggregate performance metrics. Washington’s five-year average combined ranking is 18th of 50 states in 16 “innovation driver metrics” in contrast to a new report from Bloomberg News based on seven metrics and one year that ranks Washington first in innovation.

The state ERFC report puts Washington ninth of 50 over five years, or first tier, in five “business performance” measures; but 21st, or high in the third tier, over five years on seven economic growth and competitiveness indicators. On 10 combined quality of life measures over five years, Washington ranked 16th, or second tier. A handful of measures in the report were not for 50 states, but major metro regions instead.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

U.S. Fed: Seattle a Gentrification Hub – And That’s Good

by Matt Rosenberg December 4th, 2013

Could much-maligned “gentrification” actually be a rising tide that lifts all boats economically, including in Seattle? A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland suggests so. It says that out of the 55 largest cities in the U.S. in 2000, Seattle ranks second in the percent of central city, low-priced-housing Census tracts that based on data from the 2005 to 2009 American Community Survey subsequently gentrified, or moved overall into the top half of median home price in the broader metro area. Moreover, says the study, gentrification is associated with higher credit scores for residents whether they own their homes or not, and even if they move elsewhere.

Congressional Budget Office: Hey USA, Pick Your Poison

by Matt Rosenberg October 7th, 2013

The charged public debate over yet another U.S. debt ceiling lift is just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s tussles over near-term U.S. borrowing capacity only foreshadow deeper federal fiscal challenges. A recent report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office stressed that federal debt has worsened greatly since fiscal year-end 2008, and absent bold intervention will jump dramatically as health care and other entitlements continue to escalate, and new costs grow from U.S. health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. “That trajectory for federal debt would ultimately be unsustainable,” CBO says.

The CBO report says, “Federal debt held by the public stood at 39 percent of GDP at the end of 2008, close to its average of the preceding several decades. Since then, large deficits have caused debt held by the public to grow sharply – to a projected 73 percent of GDP by the end of 2013. Debt has exceeded 70 percent of GDP during only one other period in U.S. history: from 1944 through 1950, when it spiked because of a surge in federal spending during World War II….”

U.S. report: global energy use to rise 56 percent by 2040

by Matt Rosenberg July 30th, 2013

Fueled by growth in emerging economies led by China and India, global energy usage between 2010 and 2040 will jump 56 percent while carbon dioxide emissions from energy use will rise 46 percent, according to the “reference case” 2013 International Energy Outlook released in full today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Fossil fuels will continue to 2040 to provide almost four-fifths of global energy used, according to the outlook.

Defense work worth up to $770M to Pac NW firms in Q2

by Matt Rosenberg June 20th, 2013

In the second quarter of 2013 to date, Pacific Northwest companies mainly in Washington state – and other than Boeing directly – have been awarded contracts by the U.S. Department of Defense worth up to $769.6 million for software management services, drone support, infrared targeting and payload delivery systems, wood products, fuel, shipping containers, ship maintenance, paving, medical research and more.

Bio-regional tourism greener, argues WWU enviro dean

by James Rogers June 18th, 2013

Tourism has a more pronounced effect on the world than the average tourist realizes. Whether they travel by air, sea or land, the long-distance tourist needs to appreciate the effects on the broader environment, the climate, and their own region and home. It’s more socially responsible, economically beneficial and ultimately more satisfying to travel closer to home, in one’s own region, than to distant lands. These were the key messages from Steve Hollenhorst, dean of Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment, in a lecture earlier this month at WWU’s Biology Building titled, “The Trouble with Tourism: Rethinking Travel in the Age of Climate Change.” His talk was the final of the Huxley College speaker series.



New defense awards worth up to $82M to Washington firms

by Matt Rosenberg March 13th, 2013


Another few weeks, and another batch of U.S. defense contracts for Washington state companies worth tens of millions of dollars. Under the new contracts, companies in Seattle, Lakewood, Bremerton and Bingen will provide channel dredging, construction and base operations services, and support for unmanned drones gathering images and data over Afghanistan. The following are via recent announcements from the Department of Defense, at its weekday contract notices hub.

Manson Construction Co. of Seattle has been awarded an $8 million contract for maintenance dredging of Mobile Harbor Channel, Alabama, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Mobile.

The MACNAK Corte Design Build partnership of Lakewood, Wash. won from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Louisville, Kentucky a $14.3 million contract to perform construction work at an Army Reserve site in Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, New York. The work is to be competed by July, 2014.

A sister enterprise, Macnak-Saybr Joint Venture 1, also of Lakewood, won a bid worth up to $30 million over the next three years to deliver general construction services for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle.

Skookum Contract Services of Bremerton, Wash. won a $22.5 million incrementally dispensed award from the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Fort Lee, Virginia to provide base operations services at Fort Lee over the next two years. The first chunk of funding is for $2.2 million.

On the same day, InSitu, Inc. of Bingen, Wash. won from the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland a $7.8 million modification to a previously-awarded contact for operational maintenance and support for the ScanEagle unmanned drones used to deliver real-time images and data for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The contract runs to January, 2014.

Public Data Ferret’s Military+Contracting archive


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.