Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Rural Economic Development Summit, Moses Lake
June 24, 1998
Thank you all very much for coming today from all parts of the state.
I appreciate your willingness to devote your time and talent to developing solutions to the problems of Washington's rural communities.
I'd especially like to thank our local hosts here in Grant County and Big Bend Community College.
In addition to their wonderful hospitality, they've also provided us with a great model for local partnerships. Their county government, the City of Moses Lake, the Port, and the local Economic Development Council have formed a team to work on business recruitment, retention and expansion. There are some exciting possibilities for economic growth here in Grant County, including the new airport terminal here in Moses Lake.
And, as we know from our last Rural Summit in Port Angeles last year, teamwork is central to the success of all our efforts. At that summit, we focused on defining the problems of our rural communities. Today, we're going to focus on mapping out the solutions to those problems.
But during the months since our Port Angeles summit, time has not stood still. On the contrary, events we couldn't have even imagined a few months ago have made our task more complicated. We could never have imagined, for instance, that both India and Pakistan would conduct nuclear weapons tests. We probably would not have predicted that the Asian flu would result in the fall of the Suharto government in Indonesia or the continuing contraction of the Japanese economy. And I don't think any of us would have predicted that the Mariners would be in the cellar, in spite of hitting more home runs than any other team.
Yet all of these events have the potential for affecting the economy of rural Washington. If the economic sanctions required by Congress prevent Pakistan from getting the financing they need to buy Washington wheat, our farmers will be devastated. If Indonesia becomes unstable, or the Asian economic flu gets worse, our fruit growers, farmers, and other exporters will suffer. And if the Mariners don't get it together, you can bet that fewer residents of Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia will travel through our state to watch them play.
All of this underscores the need for us to develop solutions that allow us to be flexible and fast on our feet. And all of this is just a taste of the accelerating pace of change that is likely to characterize the 21st century.
So if there is a theme to today's conversations, perhaps it ought to be "preparing for what we cannot predict." We can never quite predict the future. We don't know from one week to the next what the global economy will do, or what new calamity or new blessing will fall in our laps.
But we can see certain obvious trends. We can see, for instance, that we're headed into a century in which education matters more than ever before. We can see that the current wave of technological change will make distance matter less and less, and will create new economic and educational opportunities in rural communities. And we can see that continuing population growth will challenge our state to do a better job of protecting our water supplies, our salmon, and the most precious asset of our state: our quality of life.
These are the trends we can and must prepare for. And if we do a good job of preparing for these trends, we will also be doing the best we can to prepare for the unexpected twists and turns of the 21st century.
Rural communities have both special challenges and special assets that will affect how they prepare for the new millennium. The special challenges are the result of the 20th century's relentless drive toward urbanization.
And rural Washington knows those challenges all too well: higher unemployment, lower median income, and massive dislocations caused by the contraction of natural resource industries. But the special assets of rural communities are the assets that will matter most in the 21st century. Those assets are smart people, expanding access to education and training, and a quality of life that a growing number of city-dwellers long for.
In the knowledge-driven, computer-networked economy of the future, what matters most is being a place where people want to live - a place with great public schools, clean air and water, wonderful recreational opportunities, low crime rates, and a common bond of community pride and unity. These places - the places where people want to live - will also be the places where companies want to locate.
When we talk about the knowledge-driven nature of the 21st century economy, we're not just talking about high-tech industries. We are also talking about an economy in which wealth is created by applying brain-power to work - to all kinds of work - in ways that raise productivity and improve quality. New technologies multiply the opportunities to do this. But the essential foundation is a strong education system - a system of life-long learning that makes it possible for everyone to learn whatever they need to know, and whenever they need to know it. So in any list of what's essential for rural economic success, education must come first.
Over the years, we've also learned what must come second and third: vision and teamwork. Every community must create its own vision of what it wants to be, based on its own unique history, assets and identity. Success is local. There is no one-size-fits-all pattern for economic success, and no top-down solution from either the state or federal government. But the state and federal governments can and must participate in the teamwork that's needed to marshal resources in support of a local vision. State government can provide strong support for education and workforce training; telecommunications and technology development; tourism development; and transportation and infrastructure assistance.
We have already seen success stories that result from this combination of local vision and broad, team-based efforts that involve government at every level. In Cowlitz County, strong partnerships between local businesses, government, and the Lower Columbia Community College have helped to create 1500 new jobs in two and half years. And a big part of this success is attributed to workforce training, and to a strong local tradition of valuing highly-skilled workers. In Grays Harbor and in Republic, people are preparing to take advantage of the Internet to create or attract industries for whom distance no longer matters. In both places, these developments have brought together educators, business owners, a variety of government agencies, visionaries and smart young entrepreneurs.
These success stories are a testament to what can be accomplished by creative, determined people - people who are embracing the future rather than trying to recreate the past. And their successes create a wonderful synergy for our state. They create an upward spiral of improved education, greater economic opportunity, and vibrant entrepreneurial networks that link rural and urban communities.
The importance of those links is underscored today by the presence of a new ally of rural economic development: Seattle Mayor Paul Schell. He's here because he can see the potential of Washington's rural communities to both benefit from and contribute to the economic prosperity of Seattle. And he's here because he hopes to learn something from the people in this room that will help him solve the problems of the economically distressed areas within his own city.
We are also joined today by another city-dweller who was raised in rural Washington, Governor Mike Lowry. As the leader of Enterprise Washington, he's working to lure new businesses to our rural communities.
Mayor Schell and Governor Lowry are here along with all of you because they and you care - but they're also here because they know that we are all in this together.
As I've said before, I wasn't elected to be governor of two Washingtons - one rural, and the other urban, one prosperous and the other distressed. We are all citizens of one state. And we all live together in a shrinking and fast-changing world. None of us can succeed in isolation. Every one of us is affected by what our neighbors do - whether those neighbors are next door, in Seattle, Aberdeen, Grant County, Pakistan, or Indonesia. We have to prepare for the future, even if we can't predict or control it. And sometimes, we have to cheer for the home team even when they're losing, because we know that our support is crucial to helping them get over their slump, and make the most of their truly incredible talents.
We know we can succeed if we simply work with the assets we've got: our brains, our hearts, and each other - and, of course, the inspiringly beautiful land and waters of Washington state. So I look forward to a day that focuses less on problems and more on solutions -and a day that draws us closer to the new millennium of hope, opportunity and prosperity for all of us.
Thank you very much.