Lisa Brown, Washington Department of Commerce director, and Tom Kealey, Idaho Department of Commerce director, spoke Friday about the economies in their respective states during an Inland Northwest Partners conference at Banyan’s on the Ridge in Pullman.
“I see broadband as really a significant challenge to get right,” Brown said.
Part of the challenge, she said, is Federal Communications Commission maps showing the number of broadband providers available and overall coverage provided in the region is not adequate.
“We’ve got to understand what we have and what we don’t have in order to appropriately direct investment into that middle mile and last mile,” she said. “That’s always the most challenging piece of deploying communications or telecommunications technology.”
Washington is trying to help rural areas with this problem by establishing a statewide broadband office that would coordinate grants to governments and tribes for broadband infrastructure.
Washington 9th District Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, told the Daily News in April that she and her colleagues in the House supported the legislation because it will increase competition in the internet service provider marketplace and bring better service to rural Washington.
In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order in May establishing the Idaho Broadband Task Force, Kealey said.
The 40-member task force this fall will bring to the governor recommendations on ways the state can improve connectivity and speeds across Idaho.
The task force will try to map existing services and gaps in broadband infrastructure, which Kealey said will paint a picture for what resources are needed in rural and urban areas.
“We want to map what we have, be able to measure what we have in terms of access as well as speeds and features and services and options,” he said.
Brown pitched another idea that may bring people and commerce to eastern Washington. In light of Microsoft and other corporations last year offering funding to build a high-speed railway from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Portland, Brown said she would like to see a similar railway that connects western Washington with eastern Washington.
“How fantastic that would be to connect our communities, to connect our students and families, and also as an opportunity for people to be able to leave the megalopolis and see what the options are in other parts of the state,” Brown said.
Brown and Kealey highlighted some positives in Washington and Idaho economies.
“If we were a country, we’d be up there with Sweden or Belgium right now,” he said.
Kealey said Idaho is near the top of the rankings in several economic categories including first in travel dollars, third in the number of people moving to the state and fourth in job growth.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 2019 (LIBERTY LAKE, Wash.)—Inland Northwest Partners announces their summer meeting to be held at Banyan’s on the Ridge (Palouse Ridge Golf Course) in Pullman on June 7, 9:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m., with a continental breakfast beginning at 8:30 a.m. Lisa Brown, Director of Washington State Department of Commerce and Tom Kealey, Director of Idaho Department of Commerce, will share the keynote presentation titled, “State of the States: Trends Shaping the Economies of Washington and Idaho.” Cost for INP members is $40, nonmembers is $60. To register, visit inwp.org/events.
The presentations of Directors Brown and Kealey will culminate a day of presentations under the theme of “Value-Added Agriculture: Cultivating New Jobs for Your Community”.
“Throughout the Inland Northwest Region, it’s exciting to see even more economic activity and job creation related to our strong agricultural sector from crop production, craft brewing, and agritourism.,” says Paul Kimmell, Chairman of INP Board of Directors. “It’s always great to showcase some of this success and continue to build on these opportunities.”
Other presentations include Chanel Twealt, COO for the Idaho Department of Agriculture, who will discuss agriculture as a regional economic driver; Dr. Laura Lewis, from WSU Food Systems, who will discuss the craft brewing and distilling industry; and, Adams County Economic Development Director, Stephen McFadden, who will discuss renewable energy, food processing and the cannabis industry.
Inland Northwest Partners members meet quarterly to share common economic challenges and solutions within the eastern Washington and northern Idaho region. Topics include technology, financing community initiatives, forging regional partnerships, local business expansion and retention, and job recruitment. INP often partners with local chambers or state organizations for value-added training.
Banyans on the Ridge is located at the Palouse Ridge Golf Course, 1260 NE Palouse Ridge Dr. in Pullman. For more information about becoming a member of Inland Northwest Partners, visit inwp.org or email [email protected].
Inland Northwest Partners (INP) is a non-profit organization focused on enhancing the long-term vitality of a two-state region through its core offering of educational meetings, programs and seminars. More than 300 business and community leaders from eastern Washington and northern Idaho are members. INP is also part of a regional marketing effort known as the Inland Northwest Economic Alliance (INEA), a consortium of fourteen economic development agencies. To learn more, visit inwp.org.