Effective branding of the state and marketing of its competitive advantages attracts companies, investors, and tourism. Washington is an emerging product development leader with capabilities in advanced materials, 3D printing, robotics/automation, composite recycling, flexible cells, and smart manufacturing. The state’s clean and inexpensive energy resources make it a strategic location for energy intensive production. Private investments in research and development are among the highest in the country.
The state’s business climate performs toward the front of the pack, at 8th of 50 states. It ranks closer to the middle in effective tax rates. State government has become increasingly reliant on “fees” for services once included in general taxes. Fees are charged for permitting, use of state parks, and a large share of post-secondary tuition. Small and medium-sized businesses, who lack the political leverage of the state’s largest firms, feel at a loss to advocate for more favorable tax treatment. Dissatisfaction with the state’s regulatory system stems less from the standards themselves and more from the inconsistency and inefficiency of their application.
- Promote Washington. Invest in the Washington Tourism Act, creating an industry-led plan to provide sustainable funding for a statewide tourism marketing and promotion program.
- Invest in the Innovation Economy. In an increasingly competitive environment, forty other states offer tax incentives for high tech firms. The state should renew tax abatements for R&D and the Sales & Use Tax Deferral Waiver. Foreign students who receive an education in the U.S. need a simpler and less limited pathway to H1-B work visas. The E-B5 Immigrant Investor Program should be reformed to require investments in distressed and rural communities without gerrymandering zones that allow for investments to occur in thriving areas.
- Harmonize Government Regulations Across Jurisdictions. Implement user-friendly digital infrastructure to improve navigation through licensing, permitting and fee collection. Instead of a patchwork of laws and regulations, business needs a comprehensive and balanced state-level compromise on increasing the minimum wage. All layers of government should work together to streamline processes, lower compliance costs, and reduce delays.
- Enable Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Amend the state constitution to allow for TIF. The mechanism allows local governments to leverage private sector dollars, capitalizing on future revenue gains to secure financing for affordable housing developments, infrastructure improvements, and other public investments. Only two states – Washington and Arizona – lack TIF-enabling legislation.