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Still waiting for good jobs in Cowlitz County


LONGVIEW (Nov. 14, 2016) — For the past four plus years, our Brothers and Sisters in Southwest Washington have been waiting on the promise of new jobs. Today, the wait continues.


Millennium site rendering (click to enlarge)

Millennium Bulk Terminals first applied for permits in February 2012 to redevelop a former Reynolds aluminum smelter into a world-class bulk commodity terminal in Longview. The work to restore the facility is well underway, with Millennium having already recycled two-thirds of the 350,000 tons of materials from the site, upgraded potable water systems, fixed a damaged levy and removed unpermitted and unstable structures. Creation of the export terminal is the next step.

Yes, the facility would be used to ship coal to foreign markets looking for a more stable energy partner. But in time, the site certainly could also be used to ship many of our famous agricultural products to those same markets, and beyond. Having a facility like this would greatly bolster our trade infrastructure.

It would also create thousands of jobs. Unionized family-wage jobs.

Millennium’s $680 million private investment stands to create more than 1,000 union construction jobs over a two-year build-out under a Project Labor Agreement. That’s also 135 permanent jobs when the facility is complete and 2,650 direct and indirect construction jobs overall. And that doesn’t count the ongoing maintenance work that would employ different trades for years to come. For Cowlitz County, this represents a significant private investment that would have an enormous economic impact on thousands of tradespeople and their families. All told, Millennium would bring in $43.1 million in state and local taxes during construction, and $5.4 million in state and local taxes each year when fully operational.

It would also mean fewer people on the road, working closer to home.

Right now, most of our tradesmen and women work outside of Cowlitz County. Many work out of state, driving home on weekends or once a month for visits. I get so tired of people criticizing these Millennium jobs as “temporary.” Anyone in the trades knows our work is always “temporary.” And for someone who drives thousands of miles each month to a job in Montana, visiting their kids once a month back home in Kelso, the promise of a local “temporary” job sounds pretty appealing.

millennium-supportersIn October, I joined hundreds of my colleagues in Longview and Vancouver for the latest round of federal environmental review hearings. Millennium is supported by 15 Labor Unions and Councils and we made a strong showing. Last spring, three additional public hearings were held on the state and county environmental reviews. Sadly, there is no set timeframe for the state’s review process, and the wait continues. Gov. Inslee said himself Millennium has been thoroughly reviewed, telling the Daily News in Longview, “[t]he permitting process has been a very extensive process.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comments on the project until Nov. 29. I encourage the Labor community to support this project, and the jobs it would bring with it, by submitting comments online here.

It’s time to move forward. It’s time to put our Brothers and Sisters in Southwest Washington back to work, here in Cowlitz County.

Mike Bridges is a Business Representative for IBEW Local 48 and President of the Longview/Kelso Building and Construction Trades Council. Learn more about the Millennium project here.

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