Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Kiwanis Lunch - Pullman, Washington
October 21, 1999
RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: OUR PRESENT AND OUR FUTURE
Mary Schweitzer, thank you for that kind introduction. It’s always great to be here in Whitman County, and it’s great to be with members of the Kiwanis. The commitment of the Pullman Kiwanis’ to making Washington a better place to live, to work and to raise a family—from building swimming pools to stringing Christmas decorations—warms my heart. I love coming to Whitman County. And things are looking good, here! Thankfully that Cougar slump is over . . .
I also hear David Crowner successfully courted and received federal funding to create a Transponder Landing System for the airport. There’s only one other system like that in the nation, and it will surely help attract businesses to locate in Whitman County.
I know you have struggled in implementing the Planned Rural Development zoning in Whitman County. But it is this take-charge leadership which will propel the county towards the globally competitive 21st century.
And the County Commissioners and Planning Department are going to open up the 8-mile corridor between Pullman and Moscow, which will certainly create new opportunities for industrial growth.
And just this morning I went on a tour of the new Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory facilities with Mary’s husband and I’d have to say: What a fantastic facility! My hat is off to the Schweitzers and the community of Pullman.
This is exactly what I envision for Washington when I talk about government, community members, and businesses working together to fulfill the promise of prosperity from the Puget Sound to the Palouse.
Ed Schweitzer first came to Pullman to work on his Ph. D. in Electrical Engineering. He and his wife Mary liked Pullman so much that they decided to raise their family here. So in the early eighties they started Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory, S.E.L., in the basement of their home and started their family upstairs.
SEL kept growing, as did the Schweitzer family. They moved out of the basement years ago, of course. And last year they started looking around to expand SEL again. Pullman had proved itself to be a great place to raise a family, just has the Schweitzers had anticipated, and Ed and Mary have always been very supportive of growth in the community, including a recent donation for the construction of a new aquatic center for Pullman High. They have made Pullman their home and want to stay.
Well, thanks to GTE and the foresight of the Port of Whitman County, SEL was able to purchase a 30-acre site with water, sewer, electricity, and telecommunications infrastructure already in place in the industrial park at the Port. When Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories opens the new facility, it will be the largest employer in the county, providing 430 employees with family-wage jobs.
So what we see here is a family committed to the community and business. And a community committed to families and businesses. The community supports the growth of businesses. Families support the growth of the community, and growth becomes exponential. Everyone benefits.
The Port is now using the money they earned by selling those 30 acres to SEL to develop another 30 acres of the industrial park and attract even more businesses to move to Whitman County to provide even more family-wage jobs. This is fantastic. And that’s not all.
The Port has also turned in an application for state funding to get telecommunications infrastructure installed throughout Whitman County that would service the needs of all industrial parks and towns throughout the county.
This kind of teamwork is at the heart of rural economic development. And my administration is committed to doing everything we can to encourage economic development in rural areas.
The rural package we passed in the last legislative session provides some excellent tools for building the infrastructure—roads, sewers, water systems—that Whitman County needs to stimulate economic diversification. We are providing tax incentives for technology-based businesses that locate in rural areas, and we have redefined the concept of “infrastructure” to include telecommunications, with $8 million available in CERB funding that can now be used to install telecommunications infrastructure.
Because we know that a robust telecommunications infrastructure is vital to the economic prosperity of Whitman County.
But we must always keep the big picture of the future in mind. It won’t matter if we have high-tech businesses spreading across the state if our children aren’t smart enough to fill those jobs. We don’t want SEL and other companies turning to people from other states to fill their job openings while our people want work.
Our children are our future. We’ve got to insist on excellence in education now. When it comes to education, it’s pay now or pay an awfully lot more later. Or worse, crash later.
I’ve always said that education is society’s great equalizer. Well, it’s also the economy’s great energizer.
And as we barrel into the 21st century, we can’t leave anyone behind. We have to be impatient, not complacent! We can’t lull ourselves into believing that just because we’ve put higher academic standards in place that we can just sit back and wait for the harvest. We’ve done great work by putting the standards in place, but frankly, folks, the hard work has just begun. We need to be able to reward those students who meet the standards, and intervene when schools aren’t performing well.
These last weeks I’ve been around our state hand-delivering some of the 2,300 Washington Promise Scholarships to the top high school graduates of 1999—who are in their first weeks of classes as college freshman. These scholarships are available for low-income and middle-income students. 80% of these recipients did not financially qualify for any other state financial aid. We are trying to make the American dream of a college education affordable and obtainable for working, middle-class families. 200 of these Promise Scholars are at Washington State University this year.
It was great to see the parents, the grandparents, entire families attending these ceremonies; kids who represented the first in their families ever to attend college. But I want every child who excels in high school to have the opportunity to get a college education.
I don’t mean to imply that we haven’t already moved heaven and earth to reform our education system. Because we have. But we can’t stop now. If we stop now, we’ll lose our momentum and roll back down the hill to where we were two years ago when only 47% of our fourth graders met the tough new standards in reading. We’re up to 60% now, but what incentive do our children have to meet those standards if they can’t afford to go to college once they pass the tests? And what incentive do teachers have to get our children there?
We’ve raised teachers’ salaries to ensure that we attract and retain the brightest teachers in America. And that’s great. And we’ve instigated salary bonuses for teachers who go the extra mile and obtain national board certification. And that’s great, too, but we also need to impose standards and tests for teachers to ensure competence, just as we have for students. And we need to reward the teachers and schools that improve student achievement and intervene if they don’t.
We also need to reduce our class sizes to increase the amount of individualized contact between students and their teachers. We’ve learned a lot from our Washington Reading Corps program. When those initial test stores came back a couple of years ago, and only 47% of our fourth graders were reading at the standards, we knew we had to do something. So we created the Reading Corps, which is a one-on-one tutoring program. Last year more than 11,000 volunteers stepped up to the plate so that teachers and volunteers were able to reach more than 22,000 struggling readers in our schools with one-on-one reading instruction. And guess what? The reading ability of those 22,000 students jumped dramatically. Schools with Reading Corps programs saw their whole schools’ test scores improve at almost twice the rate of schools that didn’t have Reading Corps Programs.
So imagine the benefits we could reap from reducing class sizes to allow more individualized instruction?
This is a crucial time. If we don’t continue to push forward with education reform, all of the work we have done so far will be pointless. At the 1999 National Education Summit in New York, IBM CEO Lou Gerstner said, “We’ve got to have the guts and the political will to press forward with the commitments we’ve made to one another, to our nation, and most importantly to our kids and their future.”
All of us in this room have got to make that commitment.
I am committed to creating the strongest education system in the nation. I will not slow down until every child meets our tough, new education standards and is rewarded for doing so. I will not slow down until every teacher is testing for competence and is rewarded for excellence. I will not slow down until the bridge between the economy and education is so strong that no blast will shake it.
I urge you to join me in my commitment to institute teacher testing, to reduce class size, and to keep the Promise Scholarship program going strong. Let’s not leave a single child behind as we enter an exciting new high-tech, global 21st century.
H.G. Wells said that history is a race between education and catastrophe. Well, the race is on and the future is here. Education is freedom, and it is our responsibility as the leaders of society to sustain the land of the free—to make Washington State a State of Learning.
I know I can count on your help to make Washington a great place to live, work and raise a family. Thank you very much.