Cities and counties should pay heed to lawmakers’ call to protect maritime and manufacturing industries in Washington.

Share story

AS Seattle considers changes to its long-range growth plan, city leaders should heed a new report from lawmakers concerned about risks facing the maritime and manufacturing industries in Washington.

These industries are more than a picturesque backdrop for condos, office towers and bars in Seattle. They are a cornerstone of the state economy, accounting for 40 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, with annual income of more than $15 billion.

Not everyone can work at, nor wants to — so it’s critically important to have other industries providing a range of job opportunities. Maritime and manufacturing companies have long filled this role, providing good-paying jobs to 60,000 people in the maritime sector alone. Overall manufacturing employs around 280,000 Washingtonians.

Yet these companies are under pressure from traffic congestion that increases the cost of doing business along waterways surrounded by residential and commercial areas. Residential and nonindustrial growth are also pushing up against and sometimes into lands that are essential for industrial use and should be preserved as such.

Recognizing the importance of the maritime and manufacturing sectors, state Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, successfully introduced a law intended to sustain and grow these industries. It created a task force that recently prepared a report and action plan for the Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee.

Ensuring job-training opportunities is also important. The task force calls for lawmakers, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and workforce programs to summarize all maritime- and manufacturing-related educational programs across the state.

The task force also calls for mapping of ports, maritime facilities and manufacturing industrial centers across the state. This would highlight industrial areas of statewide economic importance, making it clear to jurisdictions such as Seattle that land-use and transportation decisions affecting these zones have ramifications beyond their borders.

State agencies will be asked to identify all “essential public facilities” as defined by the state Growth Management Act. This information will be presented in a public forum with state and local officials, with the goal of jointly developing a shared economic resilience strategy.

The time frame may be too long, with current growth pressing against critical industrial areas.”

Longer-term goals of the task force, from 2018 to 2021, are to pass legislation with policies protecting “those essential public facilities deemed to have strategic significance to Washington’s economic resilience.”

These are all worthy goals. But the time frame may be too long, with current growth pressing against critical industrial areas.

To continue the leadership shown with its recent vote against the Sodo sports arena, the Seattle City Council should consider the task-force proposals and concerns as it updates the city’s growth plans this year. Other jurisdictions should also proactively work to protect these essential zones, before they’re pressured to do so by the state.

Information in this article, originally published May 24, 2016, was corrected May 25, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that 60,000 people are employed in Washington maritime and manufacturing jobs. There are 60,000 direct jobs just in the maritime sector. There are around 280,000 manufacturing jobs in the state.