Rep. Ryu's Innovation Partnership Zones bill signed into law

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rep. Ryu receives a pen used to sign her first bill into law by Gov. Gregoire.

On Friday, April 15, 2011, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the first state law authored by Rep. Cindy Ryu. The law creates a new economic development tool that enables communities to invest in cutting edge research and job opportunities.

Ryu’s measure, House Bill 1937, allows communities to use Local Improvement District funding to finance local research laboratories, training centers, and other key facilities that are built in Innovation Partnership Zones.

“I’m proud that my first law focuses on a new way to help communities create jobs and business opportunities,” said Ryu (D-Shoreline). “All of our goals for our state depend on how quickly we can recover our prosperity.”

Innovation Partnership Zones, or IPZs, were created in 2007 to fuel public-private partnerships that are tailored to local skills and resources. The Walla Walla IPZ, for example, focuses on viticulture and winemaking, while Seattle’s South Lake Union Global Health Innovation Partnership Zone has created an estimated 1,505 jobs tied to medicine and biology.

Twelve IPZs are currently operating in Washington.

The problem is that state funding for IPZs has plummeted due to the budget crisis, falling from $5 million in 2007 to $1.5 million in 2009. The 2011-13 budgets proposed by Gov. Gregoire and the House do not include funding for IPZs, and the Senate is proposing only $350,000.

The Washington Economic Development Council concluded in November 2010 that IPZ's “can play an important role in the state’s economic recovery” but to fulfill their potential needed greater access to capital, including new “local financing tools.” Ryu’s law addresses that need.

Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-Edmonds), who worked with Ryu to create a local financing option for IPZs, hailed the opportunities created by the new law.

“It is critical that we continue to invest in our economy, and HB 1937 allows local communities to invest in new technology and jobs in their areas,” Chase said.

Communities use Local Improvement Districts (LIDs) to finance a variety of public improvements, often through assessments on property that is specially benefited by the improvement. But until now they could not be used for the economic development purposes outlined in the new law.

Ryu emphasized that her bill creates options, not mandates, and makes no changes to the public protections that communities must respect when creating LIDs.

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