Local businesses offer a wealth of expertise gained over decades of cleaning up Hanford. Last year, we described our efforts to leverage that expertise in markets as far away as China to help us transition to a sustainable Tri-Cities economy beyond Hanford. Submissions by our member companies highlighted their success in bringing new business into our community and exporting their expertise to help clients elsewhere. The year prior, we focused on the importance and potential of the Department of Energy’s and the prime contractors’ subcontracting policies in the growth and development of local businesses. This year, we are addressing the need for more local business involvement in, and accountability for, Hanford cleanup.
The Tri-Cities Local Business Association (TCLBA) is a nonprofit association serving local businesses and organized labor. We serve as an advocate in promoting business opportunities for our members, most of whom are involved in environmental cleanup of the Hanford site. We provide a forum for members to share information, form partnerships, and grow networks. Our members are participants and leaders in community-building efforts that improve education, create jobs and enhance the quality of life for Tri-Citians.
This past year has seen setbacks in Hanford cleanup despite many notable successes. Disagreements between the state of Washington and DOE over how best to deal with delays in emptying high-level waste tanks and constructing the Waste Treatment Plant ended up in court. Such disagreements result in progress paralysis, changing cleanup priorities and shifting budgets. The local community and Hanford workers, who want to get on with a safe, efficient and timely cleanup, have largely been silent. That needs to change and is changing.
For example, TRIDEC intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the local community taking neither the federal government’s side nor the state’s side. An important editorial was published by the Herald supporting the DOE and EPA proposed cleanup levels as clean enough despite outside pressures to do more.
The prime contractors are to be applauded for their use of local businesses. Consider the River Corridor Cleanup work by Washington Closure Hanford (WCH), which has been consistently safe, under budget, ahead of schedule and effective. More than 60 percent of the WCH work is subcontracted out, much of it to local businesses, which are highly motivated to safely and efficiently get the work done. Subcontracting to local businesses builds their corporate resumes so they can pursue future work at Hanford, leverage their successes to earn revenues from beyond our community, and contribute to a more diversified and sustainable local economy.
But it’s not just the contracting/subcontracting model that has contributed to WCH’s success. WCH has benefited from a well-defined cleanup scope, flexibility in work planning, less government regulatory and oversight involvement, and relatively consistent funding. Their success demonstrates what our Hanford managers, workers and subcontractors can do, under the right conditions, to serve DOE, state, community and environmental interests.
During 2015, TCLBA will focus on an increased role of the community and continued efforts to include local businesses in accomplishing Hanford cleanup. We need to further show how much more productive we can be when the capabilities and motivation of local businesses are applied. We live here. Our neighbors and families face the hazards of working out in “the Area.” We have more to gain by getting this cleanup done, and more to lose if there is an accident, than do Washington, D.C., Olympia and out-of-town interest groups.
TCLBA appreciates and encourages DOE’s and the prime contractors’ continued efforts to contract more substantial scopes of work to local businesses. We are committed to helping meet the challenges of tight budgets and extremely difficult technological issues. A stronger community voice will help empower them and ourselves.
For more information, go to www.tricitieslba.com.