Clark part of regional manufacturing effort

It's one of 16 counties in federal program targeting wood products industry

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor

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Southwest Washington counties and communities are included in a new federal designation intended to encourage manufacturing in the wood products industry, the Department of Commerce announced this week.

The designation of an area encompassing 16 counties that extends beyond Eugene, Ore., falls under a federal program called the Manufacturing Communities Partnership initiative, or IMAP for short. The Department of Commerce selected the Pacific Northwest region as one of a dozen regions nationwide for the designation. The program is intended to help communities create long-term economic development strategies for increasing manufacturing.

While no specific federal funding was attached to the designation, the Commerce department said the dozen selected regions will receive “coordinated support” from a dozen agencies with a combined $1 billion in federal economic development assistance. They also will be assigned a “dedicated federal liaison” to help them tap federal resources and they will be recognized on a federal website accessible to prospective private investors.

Business Oregon, that state’s economic development agency, said in its proposal submitted on behalf of the region that it is targeting an increase in the region’s production of cross-laminated timber for use in local construction projects and for the export market. In its application, Business Oregon said there currently is no production of structural cross-laminated timber in the United States.

The partnership of the Oregon and Washington communities was chosen though a competitive process that gave preference to regions based on the strength of their economic development plans, their potential for success and the strength of existing local partnerships.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said in a news release that the designation “is an important signal to potential investors that these communities are a good place to spend their money.” She said the program ensures that federal dollars are use on high-impact projects with a strong potential return on investment.

Mike Bomar, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council in Vancouver, said in a statement that the designation “will help coordinate and streamline strategic efforts to advance the manufacturing sector in Oregon and Southwest Washington through the Pacific Northwest Manufacturing Partnership. Never before have we had the opportunity to collaborate as closely with such a broad range of partners to strengthen opportunities for manufacturing job creation.”

Clark, Klickitat and Skamania are the Washington counties included in the partnership region. In addition to the CREDC, the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council is part of the regional partnership.