Washington may lose federal jobs grant

Application called for Innovate Washington to provide matching dollars



The federal government has awarded $2.7 million to Washington state agencies to improve job training and regain manufacturing jobs that have gone overseas.

The federal investment, announced by the Department of Commerce, is called the Make it in America Challenge. Its goal is to make U.S. manufacturing firms more competitive.

But whether Washington remains one of the 10 recipients of that economic development money is uncertain.

Washington’s grant application required state agency Innovate Washington to provide $731,000 in matching dollars.

Without that, 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 money for the agency’s operations in this year’s budget. It continues operating on leftover money 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.