Guest Opinion: Horse Heaven project would provide jobs

The Tri-City Herald this Guest Opinion piece by Mike Bosse on February 6, 2022.
Click here to download a published copy of the story.

The Tri-Cities region is an incredible community. The people who call this area home, including our many union-proud workers, care deeply about our community well-being. Clean air and water, good schools, safe and reliable public services, and of course, good jobs with family-supporting wages are the kinds of livability features that we value and wish to enhance. It’s these kinds of features of the Tri-Cities that continue to attract people to the region.

Even still, a recent study showed that the Richland-Kennewick Metro area is fast growing. Since 2015, we’ve seen 24,538 new residents join our community – an 8.8% increase in population, which is higher than the national average. With all these new people – and more on the way – we know that family-supporting job opportunities are going to be needed.

New opportunities for steady work with good wages critical to the health and vitality of the region. That’s why we, Operating Engineers 302, are encouraged by new industries and technologies taking interest in setting up shop in our community. We need thoughtful investments in the region that can support our workforce. Industries like clean energy can provide high paying, family supporting jobs for hard working folks in the Tri-Cities.

Our region is sought after for our access to alternative energy resources including solar, wind, hydropower, and nuclear. We should be embracing these opportunities to employ a whole range of skilled workers – from construction to engineering to maintenance to delivery. And because clean energy will become an increasingly prominent part of the country’s energy mix, investments in our region now will provide the long-term jobs needed here in the Tri-Cities.

One new proposed project, Horse Heaven Clean Energy Center, published independent economic reports that found that their project would support a total of 458 jobs in Benton and Franklin counties in the first phase of construction, and support between 472 to 539 total jobs and approximately $37.6 million to $41.9 million in labor income during the second phase of construction. This includes engineers and construction crews directly, but also a host of other jobs that would come online to support the increased economic activity.

Jobs supporting the general public could all be supported through projects like this too. The studies found that revenue generated by the project will lead to re-investments in Benton and Franklin Counties that could fund public services in the community and much needed positions such as teachers, firefighters or and registered nurses. This enhances so much of what makes the Tri-Cities so livable.

Our workforce needs to be competitive for future jobs, too. Clean energy has already become a leading industry in the state and will continue to grow as we work to meet Governor Inslee’s climate goals. We can set up our younger generations for success when we create opportunities to access to the industries of tomorrow, today.

Training and education in these fields is also critical. Operating Engineers 302 represents skilled workers who dedicate time and training in apprentice programs to hone and eventually master their trade. We expect anyone coming into the community to support and prepare our workforce with professional development, skill building and education.

Our skilled workforce is critical to ensuring the ongoing livability of our region. Our communities, families and hard-working community members deserve to have jobs with dignity – good-pay and benefits, opportunities for growth and meaningful work. When so many types of professions can be supported through proposed new projects, we should really take note.

This region can continue to be a leader in the 21st century opportunities afforded by new projects like clean energy. And we should be proud of the many ways in which we have led this industry so far. These kinds of opportunities ensure our families and communities can thrive. What could be more important than that?

Click here to download the article published in the Tri-City Herald