POINT OF VIEW: Your neighbors are fighting for a stronger local economy

Derek Kilmer

Derek Kilmer

GROWING UP IN Port Angeles, the hum of mills was more than just a backdrop for daily life — it was a symphony of livelihoods, an indicator of economic strength, and a testament to a resource that was the backbone of our economy. I was a student at PA High when the timber industry took it on the chin, and I saw the impacts.

Derek Kilmer

Derek Kilmer

Since then, I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to figure out how to ensure folks don’t get left behind in our economy.

I studied economic development policy, worked in economic development professionally, and have focused my service in Congress on creating more economic opportunity for more people in more places.

In fact, a couple of years ago, I crafted legislation to create a new federal program to assist communities that have faced persistent economic challenges.

Excitingly, that bill was turned into the Recompete Pilot Program, which President Joe Biden signed into law in 2022 as part of a comprehensive economic competitiveness bill called the CHIPS and Science Act.

The mission of Recompete is simple: to empower communities with flexible multi-year grants to meet local economic development needs, create good jobs, and rebuild stronger with lasting opportunity.

It’s a recognition that America cannot compete if it leaves people on the economic sidelines.

I’m proud that our region is already seeing the fruits of that new law. In December, a $500,000 federal Recompete grant was awarded to a coalition from our region that is working to spur economic growth on the Peninsula.

The North Olympic Peninsula Recompete Coalition (NOPRC), comprised of regional economic development leaders, local governments, Tribal nations, and education leaders, was awarded a Strategic Development Grant to enhance local planning and coordination efforts.

Perhaps more importantly, the NOPRC was named one of only 22 national finalists, out of 565 applicants, for a potentially transformative Phase Two Implementation Grant of up to $50 million to create jobs, strengthen training programs, and invest in local industry to grow our economy.

The Strategic Development Grant, and the opportunity to be a phase two finalist, is a testament to the strength and determination of local leaders.

The Makah Tribal Council, the Jamestown S’Klallam Economic Development Authority, economic development organizations from Clallam and Jefferson counties, the North Olympic Development Council, Peninsula College, city and county government leaders, and many others have all been in the boat rowing in the same direction.

NOPRC will use funds from the Recompete Pilot Program to chart a course for an economic resurgence that honors our past while innovating for our future.

The coalition’s strategy involves bolstering job creation in our traditional industries, fortifying workforce development, and enhancing access to essential support services, laying the groundwork for an era of prosperity and opportunity.

Indeed, the NOPRC is a terrific example of what we can achieve through the power of partnership.

It’s a culmination of years of dedicated effort by community leaders and passionate individuals who believe in the Olympic Peninsula’s potential.

The success of the NOPRC in securing a Strategy Development Grant is a first step — and it’s a reminder of what this community can accomplish when we work together.

Communities across America are eligible to apply for Recompete funding — but its roots are here on the Olympic Peninsula.

Our efforts are a statement that communities should not have to fear that their main export will be young people.

With this work, we are saying clearly that people shouldn’t have to leave their community to find a good job.

As the NOPRC makes its case for an implementation grant, the Olympic Peninsula is poised for progress.

We are showing a commitment to not only revive but reinvent our legacy industries.

Together, we are crafting a strategy for growth and resilience that can serve as a model for other communities.

We’re still writing the story of the Olympic Peninsula. Our journey toward a stronger economy continues - powered by the will and innovation of folks who care about the community. As a PA native, I’m proud to be a partner. Let’s keep at it!

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U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.

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