Editorials

Public corporation sounds promising for Richland

With budgets being cut all the way around, creative thinking is the new normal.

Businesses, agencies and individuals are reassessing their needs and looking for alternate ways to fund them.

So it's admirable that Richland is considering a Public Development Authority to get Washington State University Tri-Cities' wine science center off the ground.

The PDA doesn't provide funding, but it provides an innovative way to go after it. It doesn't raise taxes, and it doesn't hold citizens liable for the cost of the project.

It does, however, allow the public corporation to go after state and federal grants and private investors. And after a steady stream of funding is established, the corporation could issue bonds.

It has proved to be an effective funding method on the west side of the state. Seattle's Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum have both used the PDA system.

Pasco also is considering a PDA to infuse some action in the downtown area. There are 20 such authorities already operating throughout the state. Frankly, we haven't give these other iterations a close look.

But one thing we like about Richland's plan is that it has a definite time limit. It's for a certain project, and when that's done the PDA dissolves.

Richland has lots of balls in the air already. For one, citizens already are paying for a beautiful new library. The city also is taking the lead in building an interpretive center for the Hanford Reach National Monument.

WSU faces its own challenges. The Richland campus is seeing record-level enrollment coupled with funding cuts from the Legislature. Everyone knows it's hard to do more with less.

The lingering effects of economic recession present a major challenge to WSU's ambitious plans for a 45,000-square-foot wine science center, complete with teaching winery, classrooms, gravity-flow research and a vineyard.

At the same time, it's dangerous to do nothing.

There's a delicate line between living frugally and stagnating.

While we recognize that resources are lean now, it's imperative that as a community we look to the future.

Wine production is clearly a part of that future. Industry revenues are expected to reach $1.3 billion in 10 years. That's direct revenues. The overall economic impact of the wine industry today is estimated at $3 billion.

We can't wait until Hanford cleanup is over before we start working on ways to replace that giant piece of our economy. The gap just keeps getting wider.

WSU's Viticulture and Enology Program can link the Mid-Columbia's expertise in science and agriculture to development of our post-Hanford economy.

It's good to see Richland and WSU joining forces to make it happen.

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