Cantwell pushes economic plan's support, funding

This story was published 12/3/02

By Wendy Culverwell
Tri-City Herald staff writer

Amid uncertainty about the Hanford cleanup budget, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is pressing the Department of Energy to commit itself to helping the Tri-Cities and other nuclear communities broaden their economies.

Cantwell visited with Tri-City business leaders Monday and released a letter to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham urging his department to fully fund a congressionally mandated assistance program in the coming year.

The 3161 program, which takes its name from Section 3161 of the 1993 National Defense Authorization Act, has generated more than $230 million nationwide for economic development projects. The Tri-Cities, through the Tri-City Industrial Development Council, has received more than $21 million to develop business incubators, to support entrepreneurs and myriad other projects.

Nationally, 3161-funded programs have created an estimated 27,500 jobs, about 2,000 of them here.

After visiting with TRIDEC leaders and hearing local 3161 success stories, Cantwell called it a program with a proven track record.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has budgeted $23 million for 3161 projects in the 2003 budget, but the budget process remains incomplete, at least through early January, when Congress reconvenes.

"I will continue to fight for the 3161 funding," Cantwell said.

Since its inception, the program has helped countless Tri-City businesses.

One of them, Innovatek, has developed technology to detect airborne contaminants. Founder Patricia Irving formed her business at the Applied Process Engineering Laboratory in Richland, a high-tech incubator created in part with 3161 funds.

The company is close to being ready to begin manufacturing units.

Another beneficiary, GateSkate, formed at the Tri-Cities Enterprise Center, a full-service business incubator near Horn Rapids. The company developed a trail skate and has seen demand soar in recent weeks, thanks to a review in a recent Parade magazine.

DOE awards 3161 grants through local "Community Reuse Organizations," a role filled locally by TRIDEC.

TRIDEC President Bill Martin said he welcomes the senator's support.

His agency is soliciting proposals from local governments and nonprofit agencies for 2003 projects. It will select the best and submit them to DOE's Office of Worker and Community Transition for possible funding.

"You need to be able to go out and physically put your hand on the shoulder of the person," Martin cautioned.

TRIDEC will accept 3161 proposals through Dec. 31. Information and grant application forms are available under the "CRO" section of its Web site,


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