Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
April 29, 2000
Thanks to Bo Wandell, Bill Miller, and Brian Sterling for inviting me today. I'm so excited to be here to celebrate a real success story.
Washington, as a whole, is enjoying an unprecedented prosperity. Unemployment is low, incomes are rising, and our economy is strong.
Much of our current prosperity is due to the hundreds and hundreds of successful high technology companies that make Washington home. These companies comprise the fastest growing segment of our economy, and today they directly employ more than 11 percent of the work force. Each of these technology jobs creates a need for 2.36 additional jobs. As a result, the technology sector accounts for almost one-third of the employment in the state.
But that prosperity is not shared everywhere. More than two thirds of Washington's high-tech workforce is located in Seattle and King County. More than 90 percent in the Puget Sound area. What about the rest of the state? King County - Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond - per person income is roughly $37,000. But in Stevens County, it's $16,000. Here in Grays Harbor County, it's around $19,000.
How do we get our rural areas to share in the prosperity of the information-age economy? Companies know that there are real benefits to locating in rural areas. There is a stable workforce. Land is cheaper, and the cost of living is lower. There is cleaner air, and less traffic congestion. And in rural Washington you'll find some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and the strongest communities in which to raise a family.
But information and technology companies also tell us about the impediments to moving to rural areas. Rural areas often lack the high-speed telecommunications that businesses need to send and receive large amounts of information quickly and reliably. They need training opportunities for their employees.
From my first day as governor, I have been committed to "one Washington" - a Washington that's not divided by rich and poor, east and west, or urban and rural.
And I am proud of what we've done so far. We've provided tax credits for telecommunications-dependent businesses that locate in rural counties. We've provided more than $4 million for local projects to improve telecommunications infrastructure in rural counties. We've provided funding for high-tech education and skills training in our rural areas. And we've taken steps to bring modern, advanced telephone service to rural areas by encouraging new market entrants, reducing regulation, and ensuring that competitive markets work more efficiently.
But what we're doing at the state level is just part of the picture. We can provide tools, but tools are only as good as the artisans and craftsmen who use them. Bringing jobs and investment to rural areas requires vision and leadership at the local level. The fact that we're here today is proof that the people of Grays Harbor County are blessed with that kind of vision and leadership.
My hat goes off to Grays Harbor County and the Grays Harbor Public Development Authority, who saw the potential for the Satsop Development Park to become a vibrant part of the state's high-tech economy. I also salute Sen. Sid Snyder, Mark Hatfield and Mark Doumit for their leadership in the Legislature on rural economic development initiatives.
And today I am especially pleased to celebrate the success of SafeHarbor.com, and the vision, leadership, and hard work of three native sons of Grays Harbor County - Bo Wandell, Bill Miller, and Brian Sterling. After many years of traveling through silicon valleys and silicon forests, and after many impressive achievements in business and finance, these men came back to their roots and are giving back to their community.
And during the last year and a half, they - and all of you - have built a successful company from the ground up. I was here a year and a half ago when you had your grand opening with just a handful of employees. Today, you're a company with 120 employees, and by the end of the year, you will employ 300 people with good, stable jobs. Today, you're a company that provides innovative services to a growing industry sector, and a company that is already a key player in the economic development of southwest Washington.
I could rattle off statistics, but we don't have to measure success with numbers. Success is people - real people like Jacquie Stengler - a welfare mother I met at that grand opening who came to SafeHarbor.com from Work First our welfare reform program. And in 18 months rose from an $8.50/hour, $17,000/year contact center trainee to a top-level knowledge engineer who went to New York City for the first time in her life as a representative of the company. Success is real people like Rich Miller, a former logger who is now a manager with the company. Think about it - this is the global, high-tech economy, and you are all thriving in it.
You know, it's kind of funny. Here we are today standing in the shadow of two 56-story cooling towers. Twenty years ago these structures were monuments to failure, bad timing, and financial overreaching. Today - because of all of you - they're symbols of success, of opportunity, and of the future. And you know what else? More and more people tell me how much they've come to admire these structures.
Well, beauty's in the eye of the beholder. And when I look out at the faces in this room and think about what you have accomplished in less than two years, what I see is absolutely magnificent.
Congratulations to all of you.