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Washington legislature created program that nobody used

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A loan program the Washington legislature created in 2008 to help small manufacturers hasn’t had a single taker. That’s the finding of a legislative audit that recommends the program be terminated.

Here’s how the program was supposed to work: A small factory, say, could apply for a loan from the state for up to $200,000. The money would be spent to hire an expert to figure out how to streamline the factory’s assembly process. This is something Toyota made famous.

Later the company would have to pay back the loan at five percent interest and promise to maintain or increase the number of people it employed.

“Unfortunate caveats” in the words of Democratic State Senator Jim Kastama who sponsored the original legislation. He says they might explain why no companies ever signed up for the program. “Clearly this report comes out and says that it’s not being utilized and I think if something doesn’t work you’ve got to get rid of it."

That’s exactly what the audit recommends. It also found the state Department of Commerce spent $44,000 over the past three years administering the program.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

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Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.