The time has come yet again for Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho business, community and higher education leaders to head to Washington D.C. for the annual advocacy trip. This year, our roster is 40 people strong, our agenda is full, and our presence will definitely be known in Washington D.C.
The timeliest item on our agenda is, of course, the KC-46A tankers. As you may or may not know, our very own Fairchild Air Force Base is among the final four bases being considered to be the Main Operating Base for the new fleet of tankers. The Air Force is expected to announce its decision May 1. Being selected would be huge for Fairchild and our region. New tankers could help preserve the base for many years to come. We’ll have a small group meet with Air Force officials while we’re in D.C. to talk about Fairchild’s advantages.
Another item on our agenda the federal government has its hands in is the North Spokane Corridor. About half the total length of the corridor is usable, and we’re looking to collect the funds in order to complete the long-awaited highway. Other transportation projects, such as a number of I-90 improvements, are also on our agenda. We will be meeting with representatives from the Department of Transportation during our trip.
An interstate transportation project that we’ll also advocate for is the Inland Pacific Hub, a partnership of public and private sector representatives from 19 counties in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. The Hub will move the region to a multi-modal gateway to increase domestic and international commerce. The group in D.C. will advocate for federal support.
Graduate Medical Education (GME) – also known as “residency slots” – is also federally funded, and lo and behold, a brand new Biomedical and Health Sciences building will open this fall at the Riverpoint Campus. That means more room for medical students. Graduate medical students also need a place to complete their residencies. Rural areas, especially, need more doctors. That’s where GME comes into play. Central and Eastern Washington have a severe doctor shortage, and growing GME in the region is how you help solve that issue. We’ll meet with key legislators in D.C. to present our community’s case for expanded GME.
There are a number of other items on our regional agenda. While we’re in D.C., we’ll be meeting with our federal leaders – Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. We’ll also meet with Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho and senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both of Idaho.
We help lead this trip alongside the Greater Spokane Valley and West Plains chambers of commerce, as well as the Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene chambers of commerce. The group is truly regional and representative of the business community in the region.
So why do we do this each year? For one, we’ve had success in the past. But these trips are a great way to build relationships with decision-makers in D.C. so Spokane remains top of mind. Advocating with a strong, unified and regional voice sets Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho apart from other regions.