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Kilmer predicts small businesses will pull us out of recession

The only way to pull out of the current economic downturn is to make it easier for small businesses to function, according to Washington Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor).

“If you look at all the past recessions, it hasn’t been the big companies that have pulled us out of a bad economy,” Kilmer said. “Rather, it was the main street businesses that accomplished this. If we want to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we need to create an environment where small businesses can be successful.”

Kilmer was addressing a small group assembled by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce at Bayview Java and Deli on Wednesday morning.

Kilmer said that the most important issue was to develop the local workforce and create jobs in the region.

This doesn’t always stop at the county line, since many local residents travel to adjoining counties for their jobs.

For this reason, economic development should also support large companies like Microsoft and Boeing.

“I like to focus on developing cluster resources,” he said. “It’s important to support an entire market segment, like aviation. So you not only support Boeing, but all its suppliers.”

Kilmer said he views economic development as a business, with the idea that retaining current clients is as important as recruiting new ones.

One path to economic development is the funding of 30 four-year baccalaureate degree programs to be offered through Olympic College.

“It’s great that we can provide these opportunities,” he said. “Employers need people and they are looking to draw from the local labor pool. We already have a baccalaureate program for nursing, and this has already enabled several people to get an education without having to commute to UW.”

Kilmer spoke informally, and then asked attendees to say which bills they would like to come out of the Legislature and how government could benefit small business.

Chamber president Michael Strube suggested that high schools require basic finance education as part of the curriculum, so kids know how to handle money when they graduate.

Kilmer agreed with the idea’s substance, but answered, “I don’t know how we would do this without a mandate, and we need another mandate like we need a hole in the head.”

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola spoke out against the Business and Occupation (B&O) tax and unfunded mandates, while City Councilwoman Carolyn Powers asked about the possibility of providing incentives for new businesses to encourage their locating in Port Orchard.

Some of the discussion bordered on matters that are out of legislative control.

“I would like to see the establishment of a limited dress code at the high school,” said Port of Bremerton Marina Operations Manager Brian Sauer. “I think it would help to instill some kind of work ethic. If one more person comes into my office and asks for a job while they are wearing pajamas, I think I should be allowed to cane them.”

While Kilmer did not disagree with the substance of Sauer’s comment, he conceded, “I’m not sure I can work that into a bill.”

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