Help desk: Lawmakers Back Bill Encouraging High-tech Development

“Let’s be ready to join the 21st century.” That’s what Democratic lawmakers here are emphasizing in bipartisan legislation aimed at bringing high-tech business development to hard-hit timber, fishing and other rural communities.

“We need to attract the same kind of new-technology businesses to our rural and small-town areas that have helped spark the economic boom around Puget Sound,” state Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, said today (Feb. 9).

Kessler is prime-sponsoring a measure (House Bill 1480) to grant tax credits to help-desk businesses that open up shop in distressed counties – regions of Washington that are suffering unemployment levels far in excess of the state average.

Help-desk businesses provide technical support for other companies. Safe Harbor Technology Corp., located in Grays Harbor County’s Satsop Development Park, is one such firm.

“Safe Harbor is an excellent example of what a lot of the business community is going to look like in the 21st century,” Kessler said. “By encouraging these businesses to come to our rural and small-town regions, we will provide an opportunity for people to work in good-paying jobs and help bridge the economic gap between our rural and urban communities.”

State Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, pointed out that the new-technology age “means a growing number of businesses will require help-desk services to negotiate computer-system hurdles, in general, as well as the Internet and other specific challenges in the next century.”

Linville, one of the co-sponsors for the legislation, said the measure provides business-and-occupation-tax credits for the first seven years that a qualified business operates in distressed areas.

“We want to strengthen our ability to attract businesses that provide software installation, troubleshooting, training and other services demanded by the new technology,” Linville said.

“There is no doubt that these new-technology businesses are coming to Washington,” said another co-sponsor for the legislation, state Rep. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond.

“We have Safe Harbor at Satsop, and plenty of others have already started up around Seattle,” Hatfield said. “This legislation is an excellent tool for our communities to grow our own business development and get people back to work in family-wage jobs.”

The legislation is awaiting a hearing in the House Economic Development, Housing & Trade Committee.