Strategic Infrastructure Program Creating Jobs Across Grant County

Posted on Aug 20, 2015

Milbrandt location in George, WA“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

On the evening of August 12, 1986 these words became forever emblazoned in American culture when President Ronald Reagan, speaking to the press in Chicago, referred to them as “the nine most terrifying words in the English language.”

Earlier that day the President was in Springfield, at the Illinois State Fair, where he spoke on the state of farming in America. It was because of “the current problems on the farm…caused by government-imposed embargoes and inflation, not to mention government’s long history of conflicting and haphazard policies,” that Reagan suggested people should be worried when the government says it can help them.

However, Reagan went on in the same press conference to emphasize new export policies and spending reforms that would actually make a positive difference for farmers and agriculture in America. In other words, good things the government was doing to really help.

It is in this same spirit that the Grant County’s Strategic Infrastructure Program has made positive differences for communities all across the County.

The Strategic Infrastructure Program was originally authorized during the 1997-1998 State Legislative Session. The State authorized rural counties to keep a small percentage of the state’s portion of sales tax and to use it to finance local public infrastructure to help spur job growth and economic development.

This wasn’t a tax increase. The total amount of sales tax paid stayed the same. Instead of increasing taxes, a portion of the tax already being collected by the State is redirected back to the County where the sale took place.

The end result is that for every one-hundred dollars spent in Grant County, nine cents of the sales tax collected that would have previously gone into the State General Fund is instead given back to the County to fund the Strategic Infrastructure Program.

While nine cents per hundred dollars doesn’t seem like a lot, it adds up. On a monthly basis it translates into roughly $146,000 or about $1.7 million annually. So what has the Strategic Infrastructure Program accomplished with this money?

This money has been used to construct physical infrastructure including public roads, sewer mains, runways, water mains, electrical distribution, bridges, biogas, lagoons, wells, rail, hospitals, fiber optics, wastewater treatment facilities and more.

While this sounds like the typical kinds of things tax dollars are spent on, the difference is that in each case, these expenditures directly influenced private investment and job creation. Each project funded directly helped attract new businesses or helped a local business to grow or expand.

For example, in the spring of 2014, Milbrandt Vineyards and other local businesses expressed interest in opening new operations just north of Interstate 90 in George. This location worked well because of its proximity to the freeway and easy access to crops. Collectively these businesses were proposing to invest well over five-million dollars and hire up to twenty-five people in the long run. But no water service available to the sites was a problem.

Funding of $253,000 from the Strategic Infrastructure Program along with local funding was enough for the City of George and the Port of Quincy to construct the needed water infrastructure to spur the business development. Next time you are in that area, drive by and take a look at all the growth that is occurring.

This is just one example of many. In total, the creation or retention of more than five-thousand jobs can be traced back to support from the Strategic Infrastructure Program. For a county with less than fifty-thousand jobs this is a big impact.

What’s more, the impact has been felt in every community from Wilson Creek to Mattawa to Coulee City to Moses Lake, Quincy, Ephrata, Warden, Royal City, Soap Lake, Grand Coulee, and Electric City.

So while it can be frightening to hear the words, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” the Grant County Strategic Infrastructure Program has proven to be a tremendous resource for encouraging economic growth and job creation.