Wire Insider: Wendy Hutchinson

Wendy Hutchinson is the Vice President of Public Affairs at Millennium Bulk. She joins us as a “Wire Insider” to talk about economic development in rural communities.

I think the issues that keep me up at night are wondering how we can continue to provide good economic development into our rural communities. Certainty they’re important building blocks for the State of Washington and they are the majority of communities, not the majority of people but the majority of communities. And how do we provide good, family-wage jobs into those communities across the state?

I think my advice for those who represent urban communities versus rural communities is to understand the economies of those rural communities cannot be changed to become the economy of Seattle. And that some people don’t want their communities to become Seattle. Seattle’s fantastic, don’t get me wrong, and a lot of good opportunities there. But rural communities sometimes want to stay just what they are, which have good family-wage jobs and a lesser amount of people. And they want to embrace whatever industries and business that they have with them today. And so that whatever opportunities that we can give those communities to advance in their own way, we should give them.

But one of the things I think that people forget about in some of these rural communities is they want them to move to a new economy from an old economy. And some of those issues are some people want rural communities to move away from their industries and to tourism, for an example. But if you look at an average hourly wage of a miner or a logger, it’s $27 an hour. If you look at the average minimum wage of someone who’s in the tourism industry, it’s $12 an hour. And so if you ask a community to stop their industries or give up their industries, they’re basically cutting their own wages in half, and their own tax base, and all the other services that they provide to their community.