May 31—MOSES LAKE — Recent announcements by technology startups, like advanced battery makers Sila Technologies and Group14 Technologies, as well electric airplane work at AeroTEC, development of reusable rocket engines at Stoke Space Technologies and the restart of production at REC Silicon show a lot happening in Grant County, according to Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Yakima, during a visit to Moses Lake on Friday.
"So much research and development of cutting edge technology in Central Washington and happening right in Grant County, it's pretty amazing," Newhouse said. "It's always fascinating to me to come and learn just a little bit about the companies that are engaged here and the leadership work to make it all happen."
Newhouse said he believes it's important to visit companies in Washington's sprawling 4th Congressional District — which is larger than some states, geographically — to get a sense not only of what's going on but also how, as a legislator, he can help.
Newhouse said Congress has a role to play in encouraging the development and adoption of new technologies. That role includes encouraging research and development through the nation's network of national laboratories, fostering education and job development training to help people move into technical fields and promoting the development of infrastructure to support technology. That can include things like passing legislation to encourage the expanded availability of charging stations for electric vehicles.
"It kind of helps spur some of these technologies to get off the ground," Newhouse said. "I think there's probably way more ways that I'm even aware of right now that government has a role in helping foster and assist us to meet the future."
Newhouse said it is also important for the U.S. to be less reliant on Chinese factories' high-tech manufactured products, and the recent major investment by South Korea-based Hanwha Solutions in REC Silicon that will enable the company to restart solar-grade silicon production in Moses Lake is a good sign.
Pandemic supply chain issues have highlighted overdependence on foreign suppliers of some products, including silicon products, he said.
"I think that underscores the strategic need and importance for the United States to be more independent in some of our capabilities, and not be dependent on foreign sources for anything," Newhouse said.
Newhouse also met with Moses Lake Police Chief Kevin Furh, Ephrata Police Chief Kurt Adkinson and Moses Lake City Manager Allison Williams to discuss law enforcement and the things Congress can do to help local police officers do their jobs, especially given the recent mass shootings at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
"People are looking for answers, and the best place to find some of those answers is this kind of setting," Newhouse said as he sat with Adkinson and Fuhr in the city council chambers of the Moses Lake Civic Center.
Newhouse said one of things he keeps hearing from the people of the 4th District is that school security needs to be improved. He said he's got a measure that would up federal funding for school security — including school resource officers — and he has signed on to support a bill that would better secure public places. He also said he's talked with other members of Congress about gun control and the possibility of limiting who can own or get access to firearms.
"Is there anything we can do? How do we find that balance of keeping people safe, keeping firearms out of the hands of bad people, but also protecting people's constitutional rights, which is very important as well," he said. "Obviously, there's a huge variety or diversity of opinions on what we should do."
The goal, Newhouse said, should be ensuring that what happened in Uvalde, Texas, when an armed 18-year-old entered an elementary school and killed 19 students and two teachers last week, never happens again.
However, Newhouse is also concerned that members of Congress understand better what police officers and sheriff's deputies do, and is working on legislation now that would require every sitting member of Congress do a ride-along with law enforcement to see firsthand what officers face as they do their jobs.
Fuhr said in his years as a police chief, both in Moses Lake and Idaho, he's never dealt with a congressional representative as responsive as Newhouse.
"Dan, from the time I got here six years ago, reaches out to law enforcement and his district invites us two or three times a year to meetings," Fuhr said.
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at email@example.com.