Blog

Staying Accountable: 2016 By the Numbers

Staying accessible and accountable to the folks I represent is important to me.  I work for you!

To that end, we started to keep a running tally of the money we’ve saved folks and the number of people who have contacted us for help. That’s because casework is one of the most important things my office does.

We are re-starting the count for 2017, but here’s a look back at what we did in 2016.

Statistics for 2016

 

$1,163,679 Dollars saved or returned through casework – One of the most important parts of my job is making sure you are treated fairly by our government. This statistic illustrates the number of hard-earned benefits you’ve earned that my office has helped return to your pocket this year. Whether you are having trouble with Social Security, Medicare coverage, the IRS, or your federal pension please contact us and we’ll look into it.

 

33,336 Letters, phone calls, and emails responded to – If you’ve called, emailed, or sent a letter to my office you may have noticed that the response you get back sounds a lot like me. That’s because I actually read, edit and approve every response that gets sent out from our office. It’s important to me that your voice is heard. That’s why I make it a priority for my office to keep up with who is contacting our office and when they do, what issue they would like more information about. I strive to get you an answer in a timely manner to your questions. This statistic shows how many folks we responded to last year.

 

387 Community events attended – I think members of Congress should be available, accessible and accountable to the folks they represent. It’s important to me to hear about what’s on your minds and also give you an update on what’s happening in Washington D.C. That’s why I run pillar to post when I’m back home working to stop by as many community events as I can. This indicates the number of visits this year at everything from parades to company visits.  On top of that, we conducted town hall meetings in every county in the district I represent as well as a number of telephone town halls.  If there’s a community event that you think we should be aware of, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

 

676 People helped through casework – One of the most important parts of my job is making sure you are treated fairly by our government. Whether you need help getting a passport, applying for a federal grant, or are grappling with a federal agency and having trouble getting the answer you need please reach out. This is the number of folks our office successfully assisted in 2016. 


Celebrating 100 Kilmer at Your Company Visits

Before coming to Congress I spent a decade working in economic development, meeting with about two-hundred businesses a year to help them grow, succeed, and stay in our region. Because helping small businesses grow and create good jobs remains one of my top priorities, that’s a practice I’ve kept up with as your Representative. After all, our local employers are the backbone of our economy.

Despite spending about 30 work weeks every year in Washington, I was able to visit over 100 businesses during both my first term and second term in Congress. During these ‘Kilmer at Your Company’ visits I get to hear from local employers about how the federal government impacts their business (for good and for bad). What’s more, in my view it’s important to let local employers and their workers know that they’re appreciated. If there’s a company you’d like me to visit don’t hesitate to reach out to my office and we’ll try to schedule a visit.

Read on for a snapshot of some of the great places I’ve visited. These stops give me hope that the future of our region is bright and that more than anything, Congress needs to get focused on supporting the kind of job creation that I see when I’m out in our community.

A Few Kilmer at Your Company Visits:

Hesco Armor (Grays Harbor)

I was invited to join Joe Kawaky and Hesco Armor for what turned out to be my 100th Kilmer at Your Company. Hesco is growing steadily and now employs over 70 residents of Grays Harbor County. I can’t wait to see their continued success in the years ahead. Thanks for being a new staple of this community.

Metagenics (Gig Harbor)

Another great visit I had was at the Gig Harbor campus of Metagenics. I got to tour their facility, got to wear a fashionable lab coat, and had an awesome conversation with the team regarding health care policy and the Food & Drug Administration. Metagenics is at the leading edge worldwide in dietary supplement nutrition, and they employ over 200 people locally. I look forward to seeing their continued growth.

Sierra Pacific (Shelton)

A great thing about spending time meeting and listening to businesses is you get to see projects go from a hole in the ground to a new plant, factory or store. In the past two years I’ve visited Sierra Pacific’s Shelton mill a few times and am excited about the progress it’s been making. So much has changed over the past year.

On one stop I met with the Shelton Sierra Pacific team at their new mill site downtown for a conversation and tour of their operations. When this new state of the art mill opens it’ll produce 500 million board feet of lumber, employ up to 200 people and will run with the highest standards of efficiency and environmental cleanliness.

This year I was also honored to join Senator Cantwell at the new mill site in Shelton to discuss innovative new wood products. We have a fantastic group of energetic thinkers working to move forward an initiative that I like to call “Timber 2.0”, so we can connect rural economic health with green building practices in a 21st century economy.

SAFE Boats (Bremerton and Tacoma)

We are lucky to have companies like SAFE Boats that provide hundreds of local skilled workers with good jobs and do so much to support the community. Thank you for building some of the greatest boats in the world for our the Coast Guard, Customs & Border Patrol, the Navy, and other law enforcement agencies and congratulations on producing a boat that was named one of the 10 best of the year in Work Boat Magazine.

State Farm (Tacoma)

I’ve gotten to hear firsthand how businesses are expanding too. Earlier this year, State Farm announced that they’ll be hiring another 200 folks in downtown Tacoma. We talked about that among other things when I visited with employees to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly in our nation’s capital.

FKC Screw Press (Port Angeles)

This year I spent some time in my hometown with FKC Screw Press. They are a great local company about to undertake an expansion. I even learned about a chemical process called flocculation. Putting that on the list of “Big Words Derek Learned in Congress.” Thanks to the FKC team and Mayor Downie for taking time to discuss the company’s success.

Olympic Medical Center (Clallam County)

In places like the Olympic Peninsula, access to quality and affordable health care is incredibly important, but can pose some unique challenges. Thankfully, we are blessed that Olympic Medical Center in Clallam County is continuing to step up with innovative solutions and facilities to meet the needs of the community. I was honored to chat with a few of the nearly 1300 professional staff that are the heart and soul of OMC. In addition to the fact that I was born at the OMC hospital in PA just a few decades ago, I cannot thank OMC employees enough for their role in this community.

Again, I’m committed to doing all I can to support job growth in our region. If you know of a local employer that I should reach out to, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We want to see employers grow, succeed and stay here in our region.


Saying Thanks

Generally as Thanksgiving approaches, we usually get a little excited. Some dream about the delicious food they are going to pile high on their plate. Maybe you look forward to a steady stream of football games and family time with uncles, aunts, and cousins you haven’t seen in a while.

I’ve found that nothing brings people together better than heaps of food and family. As America moves past a deeply divisive election season, Thanksgiving came at just the right time. In the past few weeks I’ve found I believe more than ever we lose something bigger if we forget that we are all in this together. That we all must stand up for our shared values as Americans.

In our neck of the woods and across our nation it’s important for those of us who are blessed with gatherings and meals of our own to give back too. So leading up to this year’s big dinner I spent time with service organizations across the region to hear about the great work they are doing, and to lend a hand of my own.

The local food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters are a real reminder of the extraordinary need that still exists in our region and of the vital work being done by so many outstanding people. This season, it’s worth noting that at the heart of gratitude, there should also be a call to responsibility and generosity. Regardless of who you supported this election season, I think that’s a notion that all folks?—?left, right, and center?—?can get behind.

I spent a great couple hours with the Tuesday volunteers at Coastal Harvest in Hoquiam last week. We re-packed ‎4800lbs of fresh corn for needy families in our region! This Thanksgiving season it’s important to remember that volunteering and community service are part of our civic culture. I’ll be joining organizations in my district for volunteer work this week, and I encourage you to join me!

I’m grateful for the Cathers family for leading the charge on the Gig Harbor Basket Brigade each and every year. This year, nearly two thousand baskets were delivered to families. I enjoyed working with the other volunteers to load up the trucks. Awesome to see so many young people helping!


Saying Thanks

Generally as Thanksgiving approaches, we usually get a little excited. Some dream about the delicious food they are going to pile high on their plate. Maybe you look forward to a steady stream of football games and family time with uncles, aunts, and cousins you haven’t seen in a while.

I’ve found that nothing brings people together better than heaps of food and family. As America moves past a deeply divisive election season, Thanksgiving came at just the right time. In the past few weeks I’ve found I believe more than ever we lose something bigger if we forget that we are all in this together. That we all must stand up for our shared values as Americans.

In our neck of the woods and across our nation it’s important for those of us who are blessed with gatherings and meals of our own to give back too. So leading up to this year’s big dinner I spent time with service organizations across the region to hear about the great work they are doing, and to lend a hand of my own.

The local food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters are a real reminder of the extraordinary need that still exists in our region and of the vital work being done by so many outstanding people. This season, it’s worth noting that at the heart of gratitude, there should also be a call to responsibility and generosity. Regardless of who you supported this election season, I think that’s a notion that all folks—left, right, and center—can get behind.

I spent a great couple hours with the Tuesday volunteers at Coastal Harvest in Hoquiam last week. We re-packed ‎4800lbs of fresh corn for needy families in our region! This Thanksgiving season it’s important to remember that volunteering and community service are part of our civic culture. I’ll be joining organizations in my district for volunteer work this week, and I encourage you to join me!

I’m grateful for the Cathers family for leading the charge on the Gig Harbor Basket Brigade each and every year. This year, nearly two thousand baskets were delivered to families. I enjoyed working with the other volunteers to load up the trucks. Awesome to see so many young people helping!

I am thankful for the Rescue Mission in Tacoma and all the volunteers who showed up on Thursday to make sure folks had a warm meal this Thanksgiving. Grateful for all of our blessings.

 


An Innovation Agenda for All Communities

I’m blessed to be from the Olympic Peninsula.    The combination of natural beauty, can-do spirit, and strong sense of community have garnered national attention as a great place to live and raise a family.  Seven decades ago those factors – and the promise of economic opportunity – attracted my family to the area.

But folks in our region have a palpable sense of economic concern. While out in the District this August, wherever I went – county fairs, community festivals or the grocery store – people expressed anxiety to me about job losses – and potential changes at some of our large employers. I heard from a young dad in Port Angeles who talked to me about his concerns for where the community is going economically. 

This concern certainly isn’t new.  Graduating from PA High School in 1992, I watched businesses close down.  It became harder for the next generation to experience what I did growing up in such a special place.

That said, in PA I also learned the adage that it’s better to organize than to agonize.

With that in mind, I recently brought more than a dozen leaders to the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Sequim to talk about how to support their efforts and grow new economic opportunities.  

The good news? There are amazing things happening in our region.

Take Peninsula Community College President Luke Robins. Luke discussed how the federal government could unleash new educational opportunities on the Olympic Peninsula that could open the door to new industries.

We heard from a school district leader who noted the value of career and technical education – and how reforms could help restore vocational training opportunities that could lead to good jobs.

We heard from leaders from the Composite Recycling Technology Center regarding opportunities for the peninsula to become a hub for new composite technologies.

And local economic development leaders highlighted the need for broadband access and discussed the push toward cross-laminated timber as an example of how our region can drive innovation and new jobs. 

Every local leader at the table had his or her oar in the water, trying to solve problems and move things forward.  Overall, the meeting highlighted that the can-do attitude of our community is alive and well.  It also made the clear the federal government can and should be a partner.

That’s why I’m working with some of my colleagues in Congress to develop a new Innovation Agenda, focused on building America’s competitive edge.  As we do so, I’m conscious of two things.

First, our country has work to do to grow jobs and opportunities.

When I worked in economic development, a sign in my office proclaimed: “we are competing with everyone, everywhere, every day, forever.” In 2016, our competitors are not waiting for us.  

But America’s investments in research and development as a percentage of GDP are at pre-Sputnik levels.  Too often, technological advances are happening in other places – not here.

Second, in considering innovation, Congress should not just focus on Silicon Valley or even South Lake Union. It should target economic development at communities like ours too.

At the lab discussion in Sequim, Russell Wilson’s voice rang in my head saying, “Why not us?” New innovations and jobs can happen in our neck of the woods.

So as we develop this innovation agenda, I’ll be pushing for greater attention to rural communities.

Let’s make high speed broadband a reality so rural communities can overcome geographic remoteness. Technology can be a vital tool in educating a young person or helping an entrepreneur start a business. 

Let’s help communities leverage our assets – including our proximity to the national parks and national forests. The federal government could seed a community innovation program to help regions like ours lead the way on salmon recovery, composite technology, and collaborative approaches to managing our forests. 

Let’s drive greater connections between our national labs and private industry.

Let’s ensure that our schools and community colleges – and our students – get the resources they need to be part of the 21st Century economy.

Let’s pursue policies like the Timber Innovation Act, to help move forward the development of advanced wood products like cross-laminated timber, opening up new markets by providing research, assistance, and incentives for using these innovative, green products.

There are no silver bullets here.  But by building an action plan to drive innovation that includes all of America, we can make a difference. And we can make progress in ensuring that our top export won’t be our young people.


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