I've Been Everywhere, Man!

I’m beginning to understand what Johnny Cash was singing about when he said, “I’ve been everywhere, man.” Over the past couple of weeks, I feel like I’ve visited most of the nooks and crannies of our region.

Yesterday, I completed my summer town hall tour. I held one in each of the six counties that I represent (thanks to all who showed up in Chimacum, Tacoma, Port Angeles, Poulsbo, Belfair, and Aberdeen). Plus, I did a Seniors Town Hall on Bainbridge Island and took questions at both the Poulsbo and Port Orchard Chambers of Commerce.

For those wondering...YES -- Next time, I am indeed thinking of getting Johnny Cash-like tour t-shirts printed.

In all seriousness, I work for you, so it’s important for me to be accountable and accessible to you. It was so great to see so many of you engaged in the process and contributing to our democracy. I got to share a bit about what’s happening in Washington D.C. and some of the upcoming deadlines this Congress needs to deal with (more on that in my next newsletter).

I also learned a lot from the town hall meetings we did. It was an opportunity to learn more about what’s on your mind. I fielded questions on everything from healthcare to climate change to the federal budget to North Korea. 

If you weren’t able to attend but have a question or suggestion for me, I invite you to email me here:  https://kilmer.house.gov/contact/email-me

Promoting New Opportunities  

In addition to conducting town hall meetings, I’ve been making a point of visiting a number of the local employers in our region (we call those “Kilmer at Your Company” visits . . . which I think is pretty darn catchy). When we visit local employers, it gives me an opportunity to learn more about their businesses, to thank them for employing people in our region, and to find ways where I can help them stay and grow in our community.

For example, I recently visited Polymer Industries in Tacoma – a local plastics manufacturer – where we discussed issues ranging from tax reform to government contracting. I had a delicious visit with the folks at Mora’s Iced Creamery in Poulsbo where we discussed the importance of having predictable permitting processes when a business is trying to grow. I heard from the leaders out at the Interfor Mill in Port Angeles about federal forest management issues and addressing forest fire risks. And at Brown & Brown in Tacoma we grappled with everything from health care insurance to flood insurance.

I’m committed to seeing us grow economic opportunities in every community. While Seattle is an economic juggernaut right now, many of the communities on the Olympic Peninsula haven’t fully felt the economic recovery. That’s why I’m working hard for jobs in every zip code – so people can find good jobs outside the shadow of the Space Needle. 

As someone who grew up in Port Angeles, I was particularly excited about a couple of visits I had there last week.

In a nondescript-looking building near the airport, you can find something special – advanced manufacturing happening in our neck of the woods. The Composite Recycling Technology Center in Port Angeles is a hub where they are transforming carbon scrap into products – providing economic opportunities that enable people to earn a paycheck, driving innovation to create new products, and taking scrap out of the waste stream to help our environment.   

While the CRTC is still in its infancy, it is already doing some really cool things. I watched a pickleball paddle being put together, saw work they are doing to build lightweight hockey sticks, and witnessed testing on a lightweight, durable automobile seat.

Excitingly, many of the folks who showed me these items were students. These young people are home for the summer and getting real world experience in our region. It’s allowing them to realize that cool careers can be found on the peninsula. 

I’ll point out that the visit also highlighted the importance of federal funding. The CRTC was funded, in part, through a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. In fact, when the Secretary of Commerce recently testified in front of the House Appropriations Committee, I referenced the importance of that funding -- and mentioned that I disagreed with the president’s proposal to eliminate the Economic Development Administration in his budget.

And speaking of growing quality jobs – I also checked out the future site of Airborne Environmental Control Systems in Port Angeles. Bill Lee recently decided to move his company back home. With help from the Washington State Department Commerce, the Governor's Strategic Reserve Fund, and Impact Washington, they are off to a quick start.

Bill hopes to eventually bring more than 100 jobs to Port Angeles. Impact Washington, which is providing assistance to the company as it gets up and running, is funded – in part – through the U.S. Manufacturing Extension Partnership program of the Department of Commerce. This, too, is slated for elimination in the president’s budget. According to independent analysis, elimination of the MEP would cost our country roughly 41,000 jobs.

These are federal resources that help communities grow private sector jobs and economic opportunities – and that provide opportunities outside of large metropolitan areas.

Giving folks a home

On a bright and sunny day, I joined the Tacoma Housing Authority, local leaders, and my colleagues Representative Denny Heck and Senator Patty Murray to celebrate the development of new public housing at Bay Terrace on the Hilltop of Tacoma. After the ribbons were cut and the crowd went home – families and individuals had keys for homes of their own.

This project is more than just 48 housing units. It represents a fresh start for the working mom who has juggled jobs while looking an affordable home for her kids.

It represents opportunity for young people who now have positive things to say “yes” to – including one of the coolest basketball courts I’ve ever seen.

It represents a safe home for the senior citizen who wants to live in a place where they can talk to neighbors and relax in a community garden.

When I walked around these grounds I thought about those stories that will unfold in the coming years. And it gave me hope.

Supporting Workers

I also got some hope when I met with the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council in Tacoma last week.    

I was pleased to say “thank you” to the men and women who are working on projects that are not only putting people to work now – they are laying the foundation for economic growth over the long haul. 

I was pleased to say “thank you” for the apprenticeship opportunities that these leaders are providing and for the work they are doing to evangelize the value of the trades.

I was pleased to say “thank you” for the Helmets to Hardhats program that is helping military members transition into the trades and enabling them to earn a great living.

I was pleased to say “thank you” for the work that was done at Naval Base Kitsap that came in literally hundreds of millions of dollars under-budget.

And I was pleased to say “thank you” for the work these leaders do to advocate for good pay and worker safety.

As Congress considers an infrastructure bill in the months ahead, I want to make sure it makes sense for the men and women who are going to do the work. When taxpayer funds are used to build a road or a bridge or a pier, it’s also an opportunity to build the middle class. It’s an opportunity to build the next generation of workers.

Academy Night

Finally, a note for young people who are interested in service:  If you or someone you know is interested in attending a United States Military Academy, please join me on Thursday, August 17 from 5:30-6:30pm at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton to learn more about the academies and application processes. I hope to see you there. 

Working for You

It was an honor to meet with the Cyber Warriors of the 262nd Network Warfare Squadron this weekend at Joint Base Lewis McChord. We spoke about legislation I’m working on to ensure that our communities are prepared for cyber threats. Many of these guard members work at some of the top tech firms in our region, but they serve their nation and our state by defending our networks and critical infrastructure. Stay tuned in the months ahead to learn more about the bill that I’m working on.

It was terrific to join members of the community for the Asia Pacific Cultural Center’s 20th Annual Polynesian Luau in South Tacoma. I’m grateful to the folks at the APCC for all they do to celebrate the diversity of our region.

As the son of two school teachers and the dad of two little girls in public school, I always try to thank educators for doing some of the most important jobs on the planet. I visited the Washington Education Association’s Olympic Council and voiced my support for public education.

Thank you to Partnerships for Action, Voices for Empowerment (aka PAVE) in Tacoma for sitting down with me to share their priorities. We discussed the importance of Medicaid for people with disabilities and some of the challenges facing military families with children with disabilities. I appreciated their advocacy and am committed to ensuring that all people can live with dignity.

OK – that’s it for this time. Thanks again to everyone who attended one of my town halls. As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Derek Kilmer