Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Schweitzer could bring 300 jobs"

Another bang-up article from Michelle Dupler in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Read it and weep PARDners. Still think people in Pullman view you as "heroes?" Still think you represent the mainstream, majority point of view? Give it up. You're done.

What will the PARDners say now about Ed Schweitzer? They've previously tried to co-opt his name by "saluting" him in letters to the editor and on their website.
Pullman may have to compete for new facility

Pullman is a contender for a major expansion of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories that could bring 300 more jobs to the city.

SEL President Edmund O. Schweitzer III said Tuesday the company’s manufacturing operations in Pullman are nearing their capacity. He wants to build a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing building within the next 18 months.

Schweitzer founded the company in Pullman in 1982 to market an electrical relay he invented. S.E.L. designs, manufactures, sells and distributes products for the protection, automation, control and metering of electric power systems. It has grown to include more than 1,200 employees and 50 locations worldwide.

Schweitzer’s work force expanded by 210 people worldwide in 2005, including 137 jobs in Pullman. Schweitzer announced plans in February to bring 168 jobs to Pullman this year. The company has 111 vacancies advertised on its Web site.

Pullman is the likely site for an expansion, Schweitzer said, although he is considering locating the manufacturing facility in a state with a “less restrictive business climate.” Possible alternatives include Idaho, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Wisconsin.

Schweitzer said he thinks “anti-opportunity laws and attitudes” in Washington and Whitman County impede growth, including the estate tax and restrictive zoning laws. Schweitzer is a vocal opponent of the estate tax and has lobbied Washington state and the U.S. Congress to do away with the tax he fears will destroy family owned businesses when owners die.

Laws restricting development in Whitman County need to be loosened, he said. “I’m not saying make it wide open, but it needs to be liberalized.”

He also is concerned residents are working against themselves with “not in my back yard” and “citizens against virtually everything” attitudes.

Schweitzer spoke with pride about growth in Pullman over the last year, pointing out record numbers of single-family home building permits issued by the city in 2005. He also mentioned several new restaurants he said will make the town more attractive for visitors and new residents.

But more growth is needed, he said.

Bringing Wal-Mart to Pullman is a step in the right direction, he said.

“I am a strong proponent of Wal-Mart locating in Pullman,” Schweitzer said. “People need to be able to buy the things they need in Pullman.”

The city also needs more housing for lower-income workers. The starting wage for an assembler at SEL is $8.35 per hour. There’s little housing stock in the city that someone earning an assembler’s wage can afford, he said.

Fewer than 250 of the 900 SEL employees working in Pullman also live in the city. More than 300 live in Idaho. Schweitzer is attempting to address some of the “pent-up need” for housing himself with a 10-acre, 30-lot housing development adjacent to his corporate and manufacturing center on the north end of Pullman.
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