The Trading Power of PNWER
I have discussed the activities and purpose of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) in previous River Journal articles. PNWER is a non-partisan, public-private partnership formed by statute in 1991. PNWER serves the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Canadian Yukon and Northwest Territories. I serve as one of the Idaho Legislative delegates to PNWER and am a past-president of the organization.
PNWER has been effective in addressing issues of importance to Idaho, including agriculture issues, energy resource concerns and others, but I have felt during my participation that Idaho has not taken full advantage of its membership in PNWER to bring Idaho’s interests to the attention of PNWER members.
Realizing that PNWER could be a more effective force in pursuing Idaho’s commercial and security interests in relationships with our neighboring states and Canadian neighbors, Governor Otter, with the support of members of the private sector, established the Pacific Northwest Economic Region Idaho Council by Executive Order No. 2012-07 on September 13 of this year.
The PNWER Idaho Council is chaired by Idaho’s Lieutenant Governor and includes majority and minority members of the Idaho legislature, five members of the private sector, representatives from appropriate state agencies and designees of Idaho’s Universities. Representative Eric Anderson and myself serve as two of the legislative members of the Council.
The PNWER Idaho Council’s responsibilities include:
• Design and develop an Idaho agenda of programs of interest in PNWER;
• Provide leadership regarding Idaho’s needs and opportunities related to domestic and international trade and business and government relations amongst PNWER participating entities;
• Encourage the participation of Idaho’s private, nonprofit and non-governmental sector in PNWER initiatives; and
• Strengthen relations with other PNWER entities by participating in and recognizing, to the extent possible, significant events and milestones such as elections, commemorations and awards.
PNWER’s annual winter meeting was held in Coeur d’Alene at the Coeur d’Alene Resort on November 14-17. More than 120 legislators, representatives of business and government leaders gathered in the city to address key issues affecting the regional economy in the Pacific Northwest. Members of the Idaho Council were involved in planning the agenda of the winter meeting that highlighted two of Idaho’s industries located in the Coeur d’Alene area, and Idaho’s concern with invasive species being introduced into Idaho waterways.
Representative Anderson has taken the lead in bringing recognition of the invasive species’ potential impact on Idaho’s economy if invasive species are introduced in our waters, especially the invasive zebra and quagga mussels that could severely clog up northern waterways at a potential cost of over 100 million dollars. The invasive mussels “attach to everything in the water and suck out all the nutrients needed by native species. They ruin boats, docks, pipes, dams and shorelines; with current technology, eradication is impossible.”
As a result of this concern, PNWER has initiated the following actions to help bring recognition to the invasive species problem and measures to prevent their introduction into Pacific Northwest waterways:
1. Sending a letter to Secretary Salazar expressing disappointment with the lack of support of the federal government in controlling the spread of invasive species
2. Sending a letter to the Bonneville Power Administrator asking BPA to initiate an analysis of the possible impacts of zebra and quagga musses to the Pacific Northwest
3. Request that PNWER serve as a forum and vehicle for developing reciprocity agreements among northwest states and provinces for inspection and decontamination of watercraft primarily responsible for the introduction of invasive species in northwest waterways.
4. Encourage PNWER states to discuss with their respective Public Utility Commissions the possibility of including invasive species mitigation funding in utility rates.
The conference also highlighted local businesses through presentations by Ed Schweitzer from Schweitzer Engineering Labs, Ron Nilson from Ground Force Worldwide and Tom Power of Sunshine Minting. Schweitzer Engineering Lab is expanding its Washington operation into an additional facility in Lewiston and Ground Force Worldwide and Sunshine Minting are located in the Coeur d’Alene area.
The representatives of these companies presented their thoughts on the role of government and education in promoting and enhancing the growth of these companies, leading to more employment opportunities and greater economic benefits to the region. Conference attendees were provided “behind-the-scenes” tours of the manufacturing sites of Ground ForceWorldwide, Sunshine Minting Inc. and a tour of the Kootenai Technical Education Campus. The Kootenai Technical Education program is an excellent example of “best practice in vocational secondary school education” that other parts of the region might want to consider replicating.
The combined gross domestic product of the trade partnership of the PNWER membership is over one trillion dollars and the combined resources in the Northwest and Canada “represent more than 20 million people and $700 billion in gross regional product.” This is a significant economic benefit to the Pacific Northwest and Idaho’s involvement in PNWER is good for Idaho; the Idaho PNWER Council will enhance the value Idaho receives from its PNWER membership.
Thanks for reading! As always please feel free to contact me. My home mailing address is: P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho, 83825 and my home phone is (208) 265-0123. I can also be reached by e-mail at: [email protected]