State Rep: 'Itronix closure a blow for employees, local economy' - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

State Rep: 'Itronix closure a blow for employees, local economy'

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - The announcement this week that Itronix will close its Spokane Valley facility at year's end came as a painful jolt for state Rep. Matt Shea, who expressed concern for the 300 employees who will lose their jobs, and for the community that will lose a valued contributor to the local economy.

"We certainly take this with deep regret," said Shea, whose legislative district has been the plant's home since the company moved from Spokane in 2006. "My heart goes out to the employees, who are facing uncertainty in their lives at a time when the jobless rate is rising and the economy is struggling."

Word of the impending closure came one day before the state Employment Security Department reported Washington's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, exceeding the national jobless rate (7.6 percent), and reaching its highest point since February 1987.

"Through the years, Itronix has been a good and reliable contributor to the community, and an integral part of the area's business environment," Shea said. "Losing those well-paying jobs hurts workers, families and local businesses, not only in Spokane Valley, but the whole region."

The Itronix facility, which manufactures rugged laptops and handheld computers, is a division of General Dynamics. A company spokesman acknowledged that although the plant was profitable in 2008, economic conditions were a contributing factor in the decision to relocate to Florida.

"I am concerned that apart from the economy, Washington's hostile business climate was an issue in the company's decision to close the plant," said Shea. "To the degree that it was a factor, it's a harsh reminder that we need to stay focused on protecting jobs and making our state a place where businesses can grow and prosper."

Shea pointed to the state's burdensome regulatory bureaucracy as a barrier that discourages companies from locating in Washington, and existing businesses from expanding.

"We cannot afford to lose opportunities to attract new employers and good family-wage jobs to our region and state," he said. "Red tape and excessive regulations strangle economic growth and new job opportunities. And it's only 20 miles to Idaho, where taxes are lower and there's a more business-friendly environment."

Shea said the closure announcement caught everyone off guard, but he hopes that someone else will find a way to make the plant viable.

"It may be a long shot, but perhaps there's an entrepreneur out there who will see the Itronix plant as a feasible location for a similar business or other products," he concluded.

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