Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington State Grange
June 26, 2000
Thanks for that kind introduction, Master Terry Hunt, and thank you all for inviting me.
The heart of Washington resides in our rural areas. And I am committed to preserving that rural culture, but also doing everything I can to make sure you can share in the prosperity that's hitting other parts of our state.
To create "One Washington" where we're all sharing in this economic vitality we must make progress on a number of fronts. We can get there by:
- Creating a 21st century workforce;
- Helping our businesses and industries including agriculture, be globally competitive and opening more global markets;
- Investing in the infrastructure of the new economy -- not just the roads, sewers and water lines that make up traditional infrastructure, but also telecommunications infrastructure that provides Washington's citizens and companies a connection with the rest of the world and a chance to compete globally;
- And finally, protecting the quality of life that makes Washington a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
To date, we have made much progress on these fronts.
We are building a workforce to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. We have created the most comprehensive dislocated worker program of any state in the nation so dislocated workers can gain skills that offer a future. We have expanded job training and benefits to laid off workers to give them time to retrain and get the new skills they need for a new future. And we have built partnerships with the farming industry so that agricultural and food processing workers can be trained in ways that help them move up the job ladder.
We're working hard to promote and protect our vital agricultural sector. I've gone to Japan and Taiwan, promoting the export of Washington tree fruits like apples and cherries. I've even stood there in a Taiwanese supermarket in front of Taiwanese television cameras personally handing out samples of our cherries.
We put a stop to Taiwan's accepting counterfeit Washington apples not grown in Washington, but marketed as if they were.
I went to Mexico and met with Mexican government officials to make sure that the minimum price of Washington apples came down so we could sell more apples as promised.
I met with Chinese leaders and urged them to lift the ban on importation of Washington soft wheat. In fact, our first shipment in 20 years went out June 2. 50,000 tons of Pacific Northwest wheat, but we all know this is about more than tonnage, it's the opening of a market -- a market with enormous potential.
We've done a lot, but our biggest concern recently has been with our apple growers and keeping them in an economically viable position. Just recently, I urged our congressional delegation to support an amendment that would provide around $35 million in relief to nearly 3,000 apple growers.
I pressured the U.S. Department of Commerce to slap a heavy tariff on Chinese apple juice concentrate because of "dumping" that was undercutting prices and reducing markets for OUR producers.
Our apple growers' business people have been ravaged economically by bad weather, apple juice dumping and poor market conditions. And it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help them.
But even as we keep our agricultural businesses healthy, we also need to grow other industries in our rural areas to make sure that our children have options and can pick their own futures.
This month, high schools across rural Washington graduated another senior class of bright young men and women -- your sons and daughters. Many will go away to four-year or two-year colleges, or they'll go into the military.
Ask yourselves how many of your sons and daughters will return to your rural communities after college graduation. Will the opportunities available to them in their hometowns be as good as those down the road, across the state or across the continent? And for those who don't go away to college, what kind of job opportunities will they have?
What kind of future will be available to them?
I want your sons and daughters to choose their own futures. I don't want them to be forced to leave their hometowns because of the lack of professional opportunities.
I don't want "settling for a low-wage job" to be their ticket price, for staying in their hometowns with their families. We need to make sure these kids can build a future wherever and whenever they want.
Business leaders across the state tell me there are real benefits to locating in rural communities: stable workforce, lower real estate prices, cleaner air, less traffic, and the best hiking and hunting and fishing in the nation. But many companies fear that rural areas don't have the infrastructure they need to grow and prosper. And I'm not talking about just roads, sewers and electricity.
Their workers must be up-to-date on high-tech skills for ever-changing high-tech jobs. So they need access to life-long education and training opportunities. They and their employees need access to the same quality health care available in larger cities. And, of course, businesses need high-speed telecommunications to send and receive large amounts of information quickly and reliably.
Indeed, economic development leaders see telecommunications as the primary way to expand access in rural areas to health care services, education, workforce training, government services, and commercial information. All of which in turn improves quality of life.
Without exaggeration, a modern, advanced telecommunications infrastructure is as important as electricity, roads and rail lines were 70 years ago. Without infrastructure -- without a 21st century telecommunications infrastructure -- communities simply can't attract or grow the telecommunications and technology-dependent businesses that are driving the state's, and the nation's, economy.
For rural areas, it's often a chicken-and-egg problem. High-tech companies won't locate in many communities because they lack the 21st century infrastructure. But telecommunications companies don't invest because communities lack high-tech businesses.
From my very first day as governor, I have been committed to overcoming these challenges, bridging the "digital divide" and creating "One Washington" -- a Washington that's not divided between east and west, urban and rural, prosperous and struggling.
And we've taken some very big steps so far to build a 21st century telecommunications infrastructure. More than $4 million in grants is now available for technology and telecommunications infrastructure in rural counties. Rural counties now keep part of the sales taxes they collect for the state, so they can fund local telecommunications infrastructure projects.
We've continued funding for the K-20 educational network so that every one of our state's public school districts, including the one in your hometown, now has access to high-speed data, video and Internet services.
In many communities, the K-20 network has worked as an anchor tenant for private telecommunications investment -- bringing advanced services to businesses and homes in smaller communities more quickly.
And we've provided funding for educators to develop school curriculums in concert with high-tech companies so all high school students will have the computer skills they'll need in the 21st century workplace.
We've offered tax credits for telecommunications-dependent businesses that locate in rural counties. This program is barely a year old, but it's working. One high-tech company that has taken advantage of this tax credit now employs 120 people in rural Grays Harbor County and expects 300 by year's end. And we've got a farmer in Moses Lake selling his produce to other countries through the Internet.
We've developed distance learning programs in our community and technical colleges. Now a single working mother in Pomeroy or Ritzville can earn a 2-year degree without leaving her children, her job or her life behind to go to college in another city.
And this year, with the help of Terry Hunt and the Washington State Grange, we passed the first major telecommunications legislation since the 80s. Legislation that will promote telecommunications investment in rural areas by encouraging new market entrants, reducing regulations, ensuring that competitive markets work more efficiently and providing regulatory certainty when service is improved.
We're making progress on so many fronts, but we need to do more. We must enact a universal service program so citizens in rural areas continue to have affordable, basic telephone service while competition develops in the telecommunications industry.
What does modern, advanced telephone service mean? Businesses can't sell to customers across the mountains, the U.S. or the world without modern, advanced telephone service, fax, computers and Internet.
And we're going to do all of this without sacrificing our quality of life. Most of you live in rural areas. And you live in rural areas because you love the land. You love to hunt and fish and hike. And we're going to continue to work to preserve our natural resources.
We face some very tough water and salmon challenges right now. And we're not going to look the other way. Because if we look the other way, the federal government will step in. And we don't want federal agencies telling us what we can and can't do.
Just like we want Washington jobs to go to Washingtonians, we want to keep decisions about Washington in Washington. We can and will control our own destiny. We need to work together to meet the needs of fish and farmers, so the federal courts don't step in.
That's why I supported the recent "Fish and Forest Agreement" between the timber industry, federal, state, tribal and local governments. It took some work to secure state and federal funds for this agreement, but we got there. We are satisfying the requirements of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act and providing certainty to timber landowners for the next 50 years.
We've been working a similar agreement with farm landowners. The agriculture / fish / water negotiations have been underway for six months. And I want to thank everyone in this room who has been involved. Thank you for the leadership you've shown as we work to resolve these very hard issues.
With your continued support, we can have water for agriculture and water for fish. And we can do it without breaching the dams.
I'd like to say one more thing. I know that some people are fearful of change. They tell me they don't want to be part of the global economy. They're not comfortable with technology. They don't want to lose the rural character of their communities. They want things to stay just the way they are. Your customers are no longer in Washington, the Pacific Northwest or the U.S. They're worldwide.
With global competition in a global marketplace, our businesses and farms must become more efficient just to survive, or our competitors who embrace technology will prosper at our expense.
You know the story of English King Canute. He placed his throne upon the seashore to show his subjects that even the king couldn't hold back the tide.
Well, the global economy is like the tide, and no mayor, no legislator, no educator, no U.S. senator, and no governor can hold it back. But we can channel the tide to our advantage. We can ride the wave.
And I assure you we're not talking about surrendering the beauty or character of our rural communities. We're not talking about losing our core values.
Rather, we're talking about using telecommunications and technology to raise the bar of our quality of life. We're talking about "One Washington" where everybody has a job they can be proud of and doors of opportunity open for every child.
Thank you very much.