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Editorial for Jan. 7, 2009

Changes in 2010

Now that 2010 is upon us -- a new year and a new decade -- it's interesting to take a look ahead at some of the big changes that are likely coming in this new year.

For White Salmon, perhaps nothing will be more important than the completion, at last, of the new water filtration plant on Buck Creek.

This vital upgrade to the city's water system is expected to provide a much more steady, reliable source of water for the city's water customers -- and should pave the way for a lifting of the moratorium on water hookups. That in turn is likely to lead to more building of homes, which will mean more jobs and more business for local merchants.

The city has worked diligently to resolve this situation, and the end to crippling water limitations now appears to be in sight.

Also, in Bingen and White Salmon alike, little could be more important than what happens with Insitu, the designer and builder of unmanned surveillance drones. The fast-growing company has provided an economic lifeline for the mid-Columbia River Gorge area with its high-paying jobs and ongoing hiring increases. As 2010 begins, the Bingen-based company -- a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing -- employs well over 700, and may soon be expanding further.

Insitu is awaiting a decision from the federal government on a critical contract to design and build the next generation of unmanned aerial systems. Insitu and three other companies are vying for the contract -- and the government's decision in which business will get the deal will have a major impact on Insitu.

For one thing, if Insitu is awarded the contract, Insitu President/CEO Steve Sliwa has said that it will solidify the long-term viability of the company.

"If we win this contract, it ensures our future for about 10-15 years," Sliwa explained in an interview with The Enterprise last week. Further, getting the contract would mean that the company would launch a new round of hiring, bringing in anywhere from 60 to 100 more employees.

No matter how you cut it, that kind of expansion -- especially when most communities around the nation are dealing with record unemployment rates -- is extremely impressive.

There is one nagging consideration related to the federal contract, however: If Insitu wins out, it is expected to swiftly move forward with its plans to build a business campus -- a chain of events that could conceivably lead to Insitu moving its headquarters out of Bingen. Although the company has stated it is going to stay in the Gorge area, if it moves across the Columbia River to Hood River County or Wasco County, that would have a significant impact on Bingen and White Salmon. Insitu has operations in 23 different buildings currently -- mostly in White Salmon and Bingen -- and moving the headquarters out of the area could leave a lot of empty storefronts in the two cities.

While we are pulling for Insitu to get the new contract, we also certainly hope that the resulting new campus will end up somewhere in the west end of Klickitat County, and not in Stevenson or The Dalles, for example. Nothing against those communities, but after all, Insitu was born and nurtured here, and we feel a sense of ownership.

There should be a verdict on this contract in March, so stay tuned.

Looking forward to a positive 2010!



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