Stand up for our local economy in Kalama, Washington, and across the Northwest
The port of Kalama is planning a $100 million grain silo expansion. Bids have been received and will be awarded in the middle of July. But only two general contractors have bid on the project, and both have a reputation for hiring workers from out of the area - and even out of the country using work visas that are awarded when no qualified workers can be found locally.
Projects like the grain silo could be good for our region’s economy, in fact, they often qualify for funding assistance or tax credits because they are supposed to boost our economy. But that only works if local labor is used. Large-scale construction and infrastructure projects can keep us moving down the path toward economic recovery. They get workers back on the job, and in turn those workers spend wages on commodities and services. But when workers are from another state or country the money leaves with them and our region remains pinned down by the impact of recession.
Unfortunately, the Kalama project isn’t a lone incident. A similar project in Vancouver brought in workers from Mexico to do what many local workers said wasn’t actually specialized work. The contractors qualify for the work visas, some say, because no one will perform the work for the wages they want to pay, or because local workers have never done it before and would need some training, which the contractors aren’t willing to invest in.
While the projects like this that we’re seeing are centered in Southwest Washington, the trend of using imported labor over local workers isn’t a new one. As projects like the Columbia River Crossing move forward and contractors begin placing bids, we need to know that contractors are going to use local workers first.
Our state’s economy can’t afford to ship construction dollars oversees.