Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Columbia River Wine Expo
May 9, 2003
Thank you, Valoria. Good afternoon and cheers to all of you. It’s a pleasure to be here today.
The Columbia River Wine Expo is great for grapes and a winner for wines. The Expo started just last year as a response to international interest in Washington wines.
And last year’s event was a resounding success. As a direct result of our 2002 Wine Expo, participating wineries secured about $1 million in increase export sales. This year, there are nearly three times as many buyers here as last year.
No wonder everybody I’ve talked to about this year’s event seems so happy. I thought it was just the wine!
Today we have with us buyers and journalists from 21 countries outside the United States. To all of our foreign guests—welcome to the state of Washington, and thank you for coming to the Columbia River Wine Expo!
This Expo is a perfect example of what’s possible when business and government team up. As we’ve seen all over our state, the key to economic development is often the right partnership, working together for the benefit of a community or region. The wine industry in the Columbia Valley is a textbook case of progress and prosperity through the right partnerships.
I would like to acknowledge the partners involved in making this event possible. They include:
· The Tri-City Industrial Development Council (TRIDEC)
· Washington Manufacturing Services
· The Washington Wine Commission
· The Washington State Department of Agriculture
· The U.S. Department of Commerce
Thanks to all of you for recognizing the great potential of our wine industry—and for understanding the power of collaboration and partnership.
The Washington wine industry is experiencing remarkable growth. And the Columbia Valley is the heart of the industry. Washington is the second largest premium wine producing state in the United States—second only to California.
California produces a higher quantity but Washington produces a higher quality!
In international competition after international competition, Washington’s wines consistently win over California wines!
I should say we’re the second largest already, because we’re just getting started. Over the past 20 years, Washington’s wine industry has grown from just a handful of wineries to more than 200. Time is on our side as a relative new comer in the wine industry. And time is also on our side in other ways—our average hours of summer sunlight here is 17.4 hours per day. That’s about 2 hours more than California’s prime growing region.
Space is on our side, too, as a growth industry. Only a small fraction of the Columbia Valley’s 10.7 million acres is now being used to grow wine grapes. From the Yakima Valley to Walla Walla to Puget Sound, there is ample room to expand this industry in Washington’s wine region. Good news for us—and move over California!
The growth and success of our state’s wine is great news for our economy. We are a strong agricultural state, and wine joins a long list of outstanding products for which we are known globally. We have one of the most diversified agriculture industries in the nation. We are known around the world for our high quality apples, potatoes, wheat And now wine, too.
One of the reasons we are always so pleased to welcome visitors from other countries is that we are an exporting state. We value our friends and partners overseas, and they are important to our state’s economy. Exporting our agricultural products to other countries plays a major role in our success. More than 30% of these products are exported, ranking Washington third in the United States based on value.
Trade matters to our state more than it does to most states. Our total exports equaled $35 billion last year.
We have significant competitive advantages in international trade. We have outstanding deep-water ports. We are one day closer to Asia than other West Coast ports.
And we offer a wide variety of products and services valued in overseas markets. From Boeing airplanes to Microsoft to Starbucks coffee, and of course apples and wine.
Healthy trade requires focus on relationships, not just transactions. Trade missions are about developing these relationships with our trade partners. We will continue to give these relationships the attention they deserve.
The growth of our wine industry and our commitment to expanding trade is a great combination. We are eager to share Washington’s outstanding libations with the rest of the world. Our wines are among the world’s best.
Through strong regional partnerships, healthy growth, and global marketing, Washington wines are making quite a name for themselves. The future of this industry looks bright indeed. That’s good news for growers and vintners, good news for this region and our state, and good news for wine-lovers everywhere.
So to all of you who are a part of this dynamic, growing industry—keep up the good work. From our marvelous merlot to our show-stopping chardonnay, you are making us all proud.
You are doing your part to make sure our state remains a great place to live, work, raise a family—and to enjoy some of the finest wine on the planet.