$500,000 awarded to address employment gap in region

U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) announced that $1 million in new federal funding from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has been allocated for two economic development initiatives on the Olympic Peninsula.

The funding is being awarded through the Recompete Pilot Program, a new law authored by Rep. Kilmer, which aims to alleviate persistent economic distress and support long-term, comprehensive economic development and job creation.

EDA awarded a $500,000 Strategy Development Grant to the Washington State Coastal Counties Initiative – an initiative being led by Greater Grays Harbor, Inc for Grays Harbor and Pacific counties.

The Strategy Development Grant is focused on reducing the prime age employment gap, according to Kilmer, and will assist the initiative as it aims to undertake a “bottom-up, equitable strategy to create jobs, remove economic barriers, and ensure inclusive growth for historically marginalized communities on Washington state’s Pacific Coast”.

EDA also awarded a $500,000 Strategy Development Grant to the North Olympic Peninsula Recompete Coalition (NOPRC) – and named it a national finalist for an Implementation Grant. The NOPRC, a new coalition of members from both Clallam and Jefferson Counties, as well as area Tribes, is crafting an economic initiative that aims to help the legacy timber and maritime industries evolve, while preparing students for living wages and in-demand jobs in those industries.

The Strategy Development Grant awarded by EDA will facilitate the NOPRC’s initiatives to boost job creation, enhance workforce development, and improve access to support services. Through partnerships with key educational institutions such as Peninsula College and the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, the coalition aims to provide specialized training opportunities that align with the labor needs of the local maritime and timber businesses.

The NOPRC is one of 22 national finalists for a Phase 2 Implementation Grant, which could see the coalition awarded between $20 and $50 million to execute the proposal.

The Recompete Pilot Program was established by Rep. Kilmer’s Rebuilding Economies and Creating Opportunities for More People Everywhere to Excel Act (RECOMPETE Act), which is a part of the larger CHIPS and Science Act signed by President Biden in July 2022. The Recompete Pilot Program aims to support local economic development, create quality jobs, invest in workers and businesses, and ensure sustainable success and economic growth nationwide.

 “I grew up in Port Angeles and was in high school right around the time the timber industry took it on the chin,” said Rep. Kilmer. “I saw a lot of my friends’ parents lose their jobs. It had a big impact on me. My journey in public service has been dedicated to one core mission: ensuring that we do a better job of safeguarding workers and communities. That means building an economy where no one is left behind. Now, seeing the RECOMPETE Act – an idea I’ve championed for years – come to fruition with this inaugural grant gives some real cause for hope. The Recompete Pilot Program is focused on providing economic opportunities for folks on the Olympic Peninsula, the Pacific Coast, and nationwide. It’s about making sure that everyone, no matter their zip code, has access to these opportunities.”

 “This funding is great news for the Olympic Peninsula as they move forward with this process,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray. “Bringing the Recompete funding home to the peninsula would be a game changer for our communities and this initial award is a big step in the right direction. This is about making sure every part of Washington state can count on good paying jobs and see real economic opportunity. I want to commend Congressman Kilmer especially for leading the way to make this grant program a reality.”

 “These awards will help people on the Olympic Peninsula develop innovative new ways to tap into their natural resources and modernize their maritime and timber industries to ultimately increase the number of stable and high-paying jobs in the region,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell. “Today’s announcement also means that the Olympic Peninsula is now one of 22 communities eligible to compete for up to $50 million in federal funding to implement their new economic development plan. Washington is an innovation state, but we didn’t become a powerhouse overnight – we built our workforce and grew our collaborative partnerships over decades. Programs like Recompete will help us continue that growth by tapping into the talent, expertise, and innovation throughout the state.”

Phase 1 of the Recompete Pilot Program will invest in persistently distressed communities to create and connect people to good jobs. This program will create renewed economic opportunity in communities that have for too long been forgotten. To do so, the program targets areas where prime-age (25-54 years) employment significantly trails the national average to close this gap through large, flexible investments. As part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s place-based economic development approach, the Recompete Pilot Program aims to meet communities where they are by offering grant opportunities that ensure sustainable and equitable economic growth across the U.S.

Recompete Finalists will compete in Phase 2 of the competition, with 4-8 Recompete Plans ultimately receiving implementation funding averaging between $20 and $50 million.

The Recompete Pilot Program was adopted into the CHIPS and Science Act, led by Sen. Cantwell.

In October 2022, Rep. Kilmer wrote to U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo in strong support of the NOPRC’s application and the Washington State Coastal Counties Initiative’s application to Phase 1 of the Recompete Pilot Program.