October 26, 2013 in Business, Region

Washington may lose federal jobs grant

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The federal government has awarded $2.7 million to Washington state to improve job training and regain manufacturing jobs that have gone overseas. The money comes from an Obama administration effort called the Make it In America challenge.

But whether Washington remains one of the 10 recipients of that economic development money is uncertain, depending on if state money can be added to the federal grant.

Washington’s grant application, filed late last year, requires state agency Innovate Washington to provide $731,000 in matching dollars.

Without the match it’s uncertain if Washington will receive the $2.7 million, said Kim Zentz, CEO of Innovate Washington.

The state Legislature created Innovate Washington in 2011, making it the primary agency charged with promoting technology development in the state.

But state lawmakers provided no funding for the agency’s operations in this year’s budget. It continues operating on leftover funds from the prior biennium. Its key focus is helping regional companies find capital, develop new products and expand their markets.

The Legislature’s denial of new operating funds for Innovate Washington was the result of partisan budget battles in Olympia, Zentz said at the time.

Innovate Washington was the primary applicant for the Make It In America money, but the application was submitted before its operating budget was gutted. Zentz said the agency assumed it would have a normal operating budget.

Zentz also said the agency has about 30 days to procure $731,000. The Economic Development Administration “appears to be flexible” in allowing extra time for Innovate Washington to find a solution, Zentz said.

In the meantime, Innovate Washington is working with the governor’s office, looking for a long-term funding solution.

“My hope is that all the projects that Innovate Washington is working on will be funded,” Zentz said. The Legislature, when it meets in early 2014, could reinstate Innovate Washington’s funding, she said.

Two of the goals of the grant would be encouraging foreign investment in state companies and providing more training for workers at Washington-based manufacturing companies.

Workers and eligible companies would have to live in the state’s 25 economically distressed counties. Those include all counties in Eastern and central Washington.

A portion of the grant, if Washington retains the federal money, would pay for advanced manufacturing training provided through Washington State University’s distance-education program.

The money would pay tuition for workers or unemployed residents to enroll in WSU’s Global Campus program, taking courses in its manufacturing management certificate program.

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