Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

This Should Be Interesting

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

Whitman County board agrees to summit

Meeting would focus on development of Pullman-Moscow corridor

Whitman County commissioners decided Monday to join a proposed summit meeting with other regional leaders to develop the Pullman-Moscow corridor.

Margaret Howlett, executive director of the Latah Economic Development Council, rushed around the Palouse Monday, trying to organize a face-to-face discussion about NewCities’ concept for Moscow and the corridor.

NewCities, a Lexington, Ky.-based organization, recently introduced concepts of a “Knowledge Corridor” that would promote the resources of two university communities within eight miles of each other.

Howlett said both counties and the cities of Moscow and Pullman want to see high-tech businesses planted in the corridor. The proposed summit would start to officially brand the area as a technology zone and decide which side of the border would best facilitate specific technologies.

“I have always said that if we do not think regionally we will fail,” Commissioner Jerry Finch said. “But it seems that historically, economic growth means Moscow and Latah County grow and Pullman and Whitman County stay the same.”

Howlett said competition should exist, but each side has to realize the other is not the enemy.

“Some things we may never agree on,” Howlett said. “But India and China are what we have to worry about, and we have to look to that.”

Howlett told commissioners the summit’s goal is not to resolve every qualm between the cities and counties.

The purpose is to focus on common objectives, including better communication and economic development.

Finch and Commissioner Greg Partch said they have a good relationship with the Latah County commissioners, but they battle with Moscow over Hawkins Companies’ proposed development of a 700,000-square-foot shopping center on the Idaho border.

“Fierce competition in the end is better for the consumer,” Finch said. “Moscow and the county can compete, but after five (o’clock) we can be friends and talk.”

Commissioner Les Wigen said instead of focusing on the problems between Moscow and Whitman County, the entities should work to plug the money draining down to Lewiston.

“We can work together,” Partch said. “We did the Chipman Trail and Whitcom, but it takes understanding of the overall goal.”

Howlett said the discussion should not focus on the corridor alone, but also should include towns like Palouse, Garfield, Potlatch and Troy. [What about Pullman????]

“Without them, we are limiting ourselves,” she said.

Howlett hasn’t nailed down an exact date for the summit. She is hoping it will take place in early October.
You can virtually smell the desperation coming from Moscow and Latah County. Why? A recent study found that Whitman County had a net loss of $158.4 million in 2004, most of that to Moscow. A shopping development in the Pullman-Moscow corridor will change all that. Jerry Finch is 100% right. All recent growth has favored Moscow. It's not about competition, it's about restoring the balance.

There is no chance that Moscow is going to talk the Whitman County commissioners out of the Hawkins Companies development. That is real. Developers have committed money to it. It will have huge, demonstrable payoffs for the county.

Officially branding something as as a "technology zone" does nothing. It's just so much hot air. Remember, Pullman and Moscow face many challenges to becoming "technology centers."

Let's move towards real opportunities and not fanciful ones. And let's not flinch at the critical moment. Tell the commissioners you support retail development in the corridor.

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