Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Mayor’s Opportunity Council on Prosperity
May 28, 2002

Thank you, Mayor Powers, for that nice introduction.

I’m glad to be part of this gathering and truly moved that so many people from so many walks of life are here to wrestle with one very tough issue: How to create “One Spokane” -- one “prosperous” Spokane -- for the benefit of all Spokane citizens.

I want to compliment Mayor Powers for having the courage and energy to bring together so many people to talk about poverty and economic development -- issues that matter to real people.

There is no question that for Spokane -- poverty and low wages are serious issues. The statistics you will see at this symposium will make that very clear.

Here’s just one. Fifty percent of Spokane’s workforce are employed in the service and retail sectors -- with annual average incomes of about $21,000 and $19,000 respectively.

Yet the cost of living for a family of four, the annual cost of basic needs, is a lot more -- about $27,000. While not all workers in the service or retail sector have family sizes of four, it doesn’t take an economist to see there is a real problem here, and one we need to take very seriously.

Job Creation is the Key
The concept of “One Spokane” really resonates with me. I’ve been pursuing policies and programs since I took office in 1997 to create “One Washington” in which economic opportunities are spread and enjoyed by the whole state -- not just by the I-5 corridor.

My office has worked to have Puget Sound companies grow and expand in Eastern Washington, as well as:

  • Offer tax breaks for high-tech/call centers in rural Washington;
  • Allow local governments to keep more money for rural economic development; and
  • Ensure modern telecommunications are in place to attract companies to locate in rural communities.

When I talk about “One Washington,” I can sum it up in one word. That word is jobs. And by jobs, I don’t mean dead-end jobs. I’m talking about an economy where a person can get a job -- then get a better job -- then get a career.

Without the promise of family-wage jobs for people willing to work hard, everything else we do to address poverty and economic malaise has far less value.

In my quest for One Washington, we have already had successes helping people prepare for the world of work. And we’ve had successes helping citizens find jobs here in Spokane and elsewhere in the state.

Our efforts include our welfare reform program -- WorkFirst -- and our initiatives to encourage economic development all across Washington, not just in the Puget Sound region.

WorkFirst has been an unprecedented success. Between 1997 and 2002, 138,000 families left welfare and have not returned. The proportion of the state population receiving welfare is at the lowest level in more than 30 years -- less than 2.5 percent. The goal of WorkFirst isn’t just to reduce welfare rolls, but to help families become self-sufficient: first a job, then a better job, then a career.

More than $34 million goes to Spokane-area families and individuals each year in the form of cash aid, including WorkFirst. While those funds help local retailers and landlords stay in business, we would all rather see those welfare dollars replaced by paychecks from family-wage jobs. That is the challenge here in Spokane, as it is throughout Washington.

One thing is certain -- our WorkFirst Program is working, and our desire is for Congress to reauthorize the program.

Economic Development for High-Wage Jobs
We are helping people break the chains that hold them in poverty. At the same time, we are constantly looking for ways to create more family wage jobs to lift communities like Spokane’s to their full potential.

We’re making progress. For example, we made Spokane the state’s sixth Empowerment Zone, which gives businesses here various tax breaks to encourage growth and development.

We are funding Spokane’s non-profit group, INTEC. This organization is working hard to support economic expansion and prosperity through high-tech workforce development and training.

But we must do more, and by “we,” I’m also talking about all of you here.

What Do You Want This City to Be?
What do you want Spokane to be? Do you want it to be home to biotechnology or clean energy development? Do you want it to be a center for medical research, or for value-added agricultural products?

We in Olympia want to hear where you want this city to go and what you want this city to be. Only you can create the vision of your future!

What We’re Doing to Help
At our end, we are working to target and channel education, training, incentives, and necessary infrastructure to nurture and cultivate existing and emerging industries in our state.

In the months ahead, I am counting on the creativity of this community, and others in Washington, to help us get a sharper focus on economic development, and to use our resources in ways that nurture and cultivate economic anchors.

If we are to create “One Washington,” or “One Spokane,” where more individual citizens can get a job, then a better job, then a career, we must continue to ensure a flexible, workable WorkFirst program. We must continue to team with our business and higher education sectors to help educate and train skilled workers for targeted, high-growth industries. We must continue our efforts to create a business climate in which businesses can flourish.

You have so much going for you here in this community: strong educational institutions, visionary leadership, a beautiful natural environment, and a business community dedicated to the economic future of this city.

Forbes Magazine recently ranked Spokane 98th out of 200 metropolitan areas as one of the best places for business and careers. It’s a vote of confidence that this community can make it to the top.

We at the state level want to be a real partner to ensure this city will be a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

We all want “One Spokane."

We all want “One Washington.”

Thank you very much.
Related Links:
- Spokane Mayor John Powers
- City of Spokane
- WorkFirst

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