Legislation to support economic development in rural areas passed the state Senate today.

SB 5229, sponsored by Sen. Noel Frame (D-Seattle), expands the range of economic development projects that can be funded by the state’s Community Economic Revitalization Board, and ensures that the Board reports to the Legislature on the share of projects that use businesses owned by people of color, women and veterans.

The bill is Frame’s first to pass the Senate in the 2023 legislative session.

“I’m fortunate to represent a district with a strong and diverse economy with good jobs and thriving businesses. I think every community should have that,” said Frame. “This bill allows grants from the Community Economic Revitalization Board to be used for the first step of helping to attract businesses to locate in our rural areas – site readiness – helping us to build those projects and ensuring every corner of Washington can benefit from our economic growth and success.”

The Community Economic Revitalization Board grants and loans money to local governments across Washington state for economic infrastructure including telecommunications, ports, and basic infrastructure like water, sewer, and energy.

Frame’s SB 5229 would expand the Board’s authority to include granting or loaning money for projects to do site readiness, one of the first steps in the construction process which is an essential element in ensuring predictability for the rest of the construction work to come. It would also increase the amount the board is allowed to grant from $50,000 to $200,000, except from 2023 through 2029, when there would be no upper cap on grants to ensure that the board has the flexibility to manage funds potentially coming from the federal government. The bill would also require the board to report biennially to the Legislature on the percentage of projects that use businesses certified by the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.