POINT OF VIEW: Staying strong during unsettled times

HAVING GROWN UP in Port Angeles, I’ve seen our community go through hard times.

But when someone lost a job or a business closed its doors, we came together and pressed ahead because we have a spirit of never giving up.

While folks remain uneasy about our economy, our community is not backing down.

The new composite manufacturing center is a great example.

This job-creating laboratory is taking carbon fiber composite scrap material and turning it into new, useful products such as park benches.

With support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and others, it’s driving manufacturing innovation here, not somewhere else.

The Olympic Peninsula Forest Collaborative is another example.

Even through downswings, the timber industry continues to be an important leg of our economic stool.

In recognition of that, our region’s industry and conservation leaders are working together to increase harvest levels and restore forest health.

The Collaborative officially launched in 2015.

By year’s end, we’ll have multiple projects in the works.

The Collaborative’s leadership made it happen.

There’s more to do, and the federal government needs to be a positive partner.

As a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, I’m fighting to maintain funding for the U.S. Forest Service’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.

This program increases the size and scope of ventures such as our Collaborative.

Though President Donald Trump proposed eliminating it, we know maintaining the program supports timber jobs.

I’m also pushing back against the administration’s proposal to shutter the Economic Development Administration, zero out federal support for rural water and wastewater investments and reduce financial aid for community college students.

Federal investment shouldn’t just go to big cities such as Seattle.

I’m also working to restore commercial service at William R. Fairchild International Airport.

It won’t be easy, but we’re not going to throw in the towel.

Commercial air service provides another option for visitors, investors and business owners to see what our town has to offer.

The federal government can help.

The Essential Air Service (EAS) program was put in place to help maintain the viability of commercial service at small, rural airports.

While Congress has scaled EAS back in recent years, I’m working to bring Congress together to expand eligibility to help Fairchild International Airport.

The president’s proposal to eliminate the program altogether didn’t help, but we’ll have a shot when Congress deals with an upcoming bill for the Federal Aviation Administration.

I’ll also continue pushing my bill to bring Transportation Security Administration screening back to Fairchild so folks can go straight to their gate once they reach Sea-Tac.

Additionally, Olympic National Park is a big economic driver here.

But we’re all familiar with the Park Service’s maintenance challenges.

Take the limited access at Olympic Hot Springs Road.

Making it harder to access the park makes it less likely visitors will come and spend money.

That’s why I’ve introduced the National Park Service Legacy Act — a bipartisan proposal to help address these maintenance challenges.

This bill would ensure future generations can enjoy Olympic National Park like I do while continuing to create economic opportunities.

Finally, I’ll soon be introducing a bill to provide tax incentives for the build-out of high-speed internet in under-served areas.

I want to ensure that rural students and businesses don’t have a competitive disadvantage.

The federal government needs to be a partner in supporting our community — whether you want to open a business or learn a trade.

Given congressional dysfunction and some misguided budget proposals, it’s not going to be easy.

But I’m carrying our community’s fighting spirit to work with me every single day.

_________

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Gig Harbor resident, represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties.

For information on how to send us a “Point of View,” see the information box on Page 12 under “Have Your Say.”

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