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Office of Governor Gary Locke
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Locke visits Whatcom County to discuss border security issues and economic development

POINT ROBERTS – Gov. Gary Locke traveled to Whatcom County today to inspect the U.S.-Canadian border and to meet with local officials regarding economic development. The visit to Point Roberts was the first by a Washington state governor in nearly 40 years.

The governor was in Bellingham and Point Roberts as part of an ongoing series of meetings across the state to hold economic development discussions with local citizens and to talk about what Locke has done to initiate and sustain a strong economic recovery.

At a morning meeting in Bellingham with the Whatcom County Partnership for a Sustainable Community, the governor addressed strategies necessary to design and sustain economic recovery. The partnership was set up to build and maintain a strong economy for the entire county. It is funded and staffed by the Port of Bellingham and represents all cities, county government and a local public utility district.

“It is important that in designing strategies for economic recovery, we think not only about the short-term need to get people to work, but also about the long-term requirements for a strong economic foundation. Some of those requirements include: a 21st century workforce; modern, reliable economic infrastructure; a vibrant, entrepreneurial business climate; and a great quality of life,” Locke said.

“You have so much going for you here in this community - economic diversity, strong educational institutions, visionary leadership, and a business community dedicated to the economic future of the county,” Locke added. “We want to be a real partner to make this a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

Following the governor’s comments and a roundtable discussion on economic development and border issues facing Whatcom County, Locke answered questions from the audience.

Locke then visited Bellingham Cold Storage, a facility hit hard by the energy crisis two years ago. During that crisis, Bellingham Cold Storage, which comprises several companies employing more than a thousand people in Whatcom County, almost curtailed operations when the wholesale energy market failed and energy prices spiked.

The crisis was averted, however, when Locke declared an “energy alert,” helping the company find a short-term arrangement that allowed it time to obtain a long-term power supply at affordable rates and keep its doors open.

“Bellingham Cold Storage is incredibly important to so many businesses here,” the governor stated, “from agriculture to fish, that had Bellingham Cold Storage shut down, it would have been catastrophic.”

Locke then traveled to the U.S.-Canadian border to inspect the Blaine truck crossing, one of the busiest in the country, and to meet with National Guard troops assigned to protect the border. Accompanied by Adjutant General Timothy Lowenberg of the Washington state National Guard, Locke applauded the Guardsmen for their work along the border to augment federal border resources, and expressed gratitude for the increased federal staffing that has been authorized at the borders.

However, the governor expressed his “grave concern about allowing these troops to serve unarmed and the decision to federalize the troops under Title 10.”

“That decision places these troops in unnecessary danger and adds undue burden on federal agents to provide force protection when they should be focused on preventing suspicious materials and people from entering the country,” Locke noted. “I continue to believe these troops should be activated under Title 32 in the same manner as the Guard was activated for airport security immediately following the September 11th attacks.”

After the border inspection, Locke traveled to Point Roberts, a Washington state community at the end of a peninsula cut off from the U.S. mainland by Canada to the north and Boundary Bay to the south. Residents traveling from Point Roberts to the U.S. must enter Canada before re-entering the U.S.

Upon his arrival in Point Roberts, the governor toured the community and stopped at the Point Roberts Primary School to visit with teachers and students.

At his final public event of the day, Locke took part in a community meeting at Point Roberts to discuss border security, education and economic development issues.

“Thank you for inviting me to participate in this roundtable discussion and to spend some time in your community today,” Locke said. “We want to work with you, whether that be on a pier or a sewer project, access to education, or improving the border crossing. It’s a pleasure to be here.”
Related Links:
- Washington Military Department

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