Friday, June 3, 2011

That sucking noise from Idaho? It's not a vacuum

As we've come to know, Idaho is all about sucking sounds and love letters when it comes to Washington business and jobs. Austin Jenkins did a follow-up on that love letter, by the way:

So, has cupid's arrow struck in the heart of any Washington or Oregon businesses? Dietrich claims two love matches over the past year. We can't independently verify it was the "love letter" that did the trick because Dietrich won't name names. He says it's up to the companies to out themselves.
As it turns out, the Idaho Statesman has a few questions for their state's leaders about where their state and jobs are headed:

Instead, Idaho is trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of low wages, low-skilled jobs and low-skilled workers. It has an abundance of all three. What it lacks — in fact, what it is losing — are enough professional, scientific, technical and corporate management jobs. And Idahoans who work in those fields would earn considerably more if they moved to another state.

Apparently, that’s just fine with Idaho’s leadership. It has done little to give Idaho’s growing labor force the capital investments it needs to succeed.
Ouch. You can read their whole editorial here: Idaho Stuck in a Rut of Low-Wage, Dead-End Jobs

While Idaho figures how they're sucking, reminders about Washington's track record when it comes to jobs and business can be found here, here, here, here and here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The never-ending story of liquor sales

Privatization of the state’s liquor operations is not a new debate. Washington is one of 18 “control” states that has a monopoly over some aspect of the distribution and sales of liquor, and debates about whether the state should be in the liquor business is one of those issues that rears its head nearly every year. It’s a complicated issue. Arguments that privatization will save the state money are often iffy at best (stores actually returned about $370 million last year to state and local governments) and concerns about enforcement and minors having an easier time accessing liquor are difficult to resolve (Washington’s state-run stores have a compliance record that beats privately-run stores). Last November, voters rejected two competing initiatives that sought to privatize the system.

But the conversation was revived when House Ways & Means Chair Ross Hunter unveiled his budget proposal in early April. There was immediate interest in a relatively small line item that assumed $300 million of revenue from a still-fuzzy proposal to contract out the distribution and warehousing of liquor in Washington.

The idea then was that the state would receive an upfront payment of about $300 million as a kind of down payment from a not-yet-determined private entity that would manage liquor warehouse and distribution operations currently run by the state. All retail operations at both state-run and contract stores would have remained the same. But the move to a privately-run warehousing and distribution system was thought to be one way to find efficiencies and make the retail-side more responsive to customer needs. For example, restaurants could order single bottles instead of entire cases, allowing them greater flexibility to offer more brands and sizes.

Ultimately the numbers just didn’t pan out and the idea fizzled.

And then we learned that no idea ever REALLY fizzles in Olympia. In the final days of the special session, members started working on a new-ish approach. This time, it passed. The idea looks very similar to the one proposed by Hunter - the state would remain in charge of liquor sales, and the warehousing and distribution would be privatized. The difference is in process and timeline - the governor’s budget office and Liquor Control Board will work together over 120 days to conduct a competitive process to evaluate and select a private sector entity and, based on the proposals received, will be able to decide whether to accept such liquor distribution privatization deal and enter into a long-term contract. The bill details numerous requirements related to cost, efficiency and performance.

So that’s where we stand now. The process begins as soon as the Governor signs the bill. With another privatization initiative already filed that would privatize the entire system, a lot of folks will be keeping an eye on how this chapter ends and whether we can expect another sequel in November.

Jobs moving back across the border?

Here's some news you don't hear very often -- a manufacturing company is moving jobs from Mexico to Washington state.

Pyrotek Inc., a company that makes high-end metal and composite products for customers around the world, announced yesterday that they are relocating equipment from their plant in Apodaca, Mexico to start a new production line in the Spokane Valley. The new facility will make high-quality ceramic filters for an industrial customer and will create about 20 skilled manufacturing jobs.

Production is expected to begin in August.

For more info: Governor Gregoire's statement on the expansion.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Employers love workers with skills.

You know, like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, but most of all, computer skills.

In an effort to help unemployed workers update their computer proficiency skills, Washington's WorkSource career development program within the Employment Security Department teamed up with Microsoft to allow free access to their e-learning computer courses.

But they want you to spread the word: Registration is free until October 31. After that, you'll have to pay big bucks for this kind of training.

The courses cover basic computer literacy, Office and Windows products, and training for IT professionals. Upon request, access codes are sent by email through local WorkSource centers.

To learn more and to register online, log in to and click on the “Wow! Free Microsoft E-learning” icon on the right. Information and registration assistance also are available at local WorkSource centers listed on the website.

WorkSource is a statewide partnership of Employment Security, local workforce development councils, other state agencies, colleges and nonprofit organizations that work together to provide free employment and training services to job seekers and employers. WorkSource also can help employers recruit and screen for qualified workers, apply for employment tax breaks and qualify for subsidized employee training.

Another way to go "Evergreen"

Did you know you can renew your vehicle tabs and driver’s license with a couple of mouse clicks? The Department of Licensing is working to increase convenience for customers and lessen their carbon footprint by offering more than 20 services online.

Last year alone, nearly 220,000 people went to DOL’s website and renewed their driver’s license. Nearly 400,000 Washington vehicle owners have signed up for email reminders to renew their car tabs. Not only is it easy to get email notices and renew tabs and licenses online, it’s also good for the environment and saves money.

Producing and mailing paper renewal notices costs about $3.5 million every year. The more people who renew online, the less DOL spends to produce, print and mail notices. And DOL’s paper savings already stack up to twice the height of the Space Needle.

You can sign up for this service, and several others, at Other DOL online services include:

*Getting a copy of your driving record

*Replacing a lost or stolen license or ID card

*Changing the address on your vehicle registration

*Renewing your boat registration

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.