Growing jobs and protecting the environment both possible

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 22, 2013 

Whatcom County residents have an important choice to make about our future. Our county council will make many critical decisions in the coming four years on issues like protecting our drinking water, growth management and coal export. Unfortunately, some special-interest groups, and even some candidates, are trying to frame the election as a choice between jobs and a healthy environment. That's a false choice. Whatcom County can, and should, have both.

The four county council candidates supported by Washington Conservation Voters have a background that shows that we can protect the environment while improving the economy.

Rud Browne is an entrepreneur who has created more than 350 jobs in his career, 140 of them here in Whatcom County. The company that he started and managed until two years ago, Ryzex, is a poster child for how local companies can succeed economically; they have offices in five countries and sell products in 60. Rud was even selected as Whatcom County businessperson of the year. Under Rud's leadership, Ryzex also became a model for how businesses can succeed environmentally; the company figured out how to recycle or reuse 100 percent of the waste at its Bellingham headquarters. That effort became the model for the popular Toward Zero Waste campaign and hundreds of other businesses are now following the example and cutting waste and reducing their costs. Our community is fortunate to have such impressive business leadership.

Ken Mann and his wife Amy own and operate real estate development and property management companies. They specialize in the restoration of older buildings and have completed restorations of several iconic buildings in downtown Bellingham. By preserving existing buildings, they are conserving resources - smart business and good for the environment.

Barry Buchanan's career included working on Trident submarines and the Hubble telescope. He currently owns a small business that provides consulting and efficiency services for other businesses. His company helps other companies manage growth.

Carl Weimer was one of the founders of the iconic RE Store, a business that has been part of Bellingham for more than 20 years and has about 25 people employed locally (and another 15 at a sister store in Seattle). The RE Store keeps 5.2 millions pounds of trash out of the landfill every year by selling salvaged building materials for home remodels.

These candidates know what it is like to worry about making payroll. They know the importance of customer service. They know how taxes and regulations impact a company, what it takes to get construction permits, and how to manage cash flows, staff, and contractors.

And these candidates also know that businesses have a choice about where to set up shop. Employers and employees want to locate in a beautiful community with opportunities for recreation, natural beauty, clean air, and clean water. We need Whatcom County to be a place where businesses choose to locate. Our region's economic competitiveness is increasingly dependent on the perception that this is a great place to live. We need leaders who recognize these facts and who will bring real experience managing businesses to the important job of managing the county government.

In this election you are going to be told that you have to choose between jobs and the environment. You don't. Here are the four candidates we recommend who will fight for both: Rud Browne, Barry Buchanan, Ken Mann, and Carl Weimer.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Andy Anderson and Isabel Vanderslice wrote this on behalf of the Whatcom Chapter of the Washington Conservation Voters. Go to wcvoters.org/counties/Whatcom for more information about the group.

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