Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Keynote Address: SW Washington Region Economy
March 22, 2004

Good afternoon. It’s great to be here.

It has been an honor serving as your governor the past seven years. Mona and I deeply appreciate the encouragement and support we’ve received from the people here in southwest Washington, and all across our state. And I am very proud of all that we’ve been able to accomplish for Washington, including some great progress in the Legislative session we just concluded.

I just came from the dedication of the new Engineering & Science Institute at WSU-Vancouver. The Institute reflects perfectly the connection between higher education and economic development. It will be a great asset to this region: in growing the economy and making sure high demand jobs are filled by the sons and daughters of this region.

The new Institute opens doors of opportunity for the people of southwest Washington.
Doors of opportunities for students who want to study computer science, biology and mechanical engineering at the university level. Doors of opportunities for local businesses and industries to draw from a first-rate local pool of highly educated and trained employees in critical areas—and to have access to quality research opportunities. And doors of opportunities for this community, which will reap the benefits of developing the innovation potential of this region—and the jobs that go with it.

As I mentioned a moment ago, this was a very productive session. I'm pleased that the Legislature agreed to increase enrollments at our colleges and universities by up to 3,000 students. About a third of these slots are in high-demand fields such as information technology, engineering and nursing. The Legislature provided full funding for these high cost programs because tuition only covers a fraction of the actual cost of educating these students.

This is great news for southwest Washington’s high-tech industry leaders. Increasing enrollment slots helps ensure that our complex economy will have skilled workers from right here in Washington.

I am also very proud of our accomplishments in education this session. We made great progress in education reform by: refining and clarifying the Washington Assessment of Student Learning; reforming and strengthening our Learning Assistance Program; authorizing school districts to collect the full amount of voter-approved levies; and authorizing the development of charter schools.

We also passed $68 million worth of business tax incentives this session. These incentives will help Washington keep its competitive edge in technology research and development, and attract more manufacturing and technology jobs to rural areas.

Overall, it was a great session. We made more strong progress on education and economic development. Our capital budget will create some 12,000 new, badly needed, private sector jobs by taking advantage of the low interest rates to borrow money to make much-needed improvements to our colleges and universities – work that must be done.

We’ve also further improved our competitiveness by extending targeted tax incentives for research and development and for companies locating or expanding in rural areas. We passed a balanced budget. All of this is encouraging.

And it’s especially encouraging to come down here to Vancouver and witness a region that is surging ahead to become a competitive force in the 21st century global economy.

I mentioned the WSU-Vancouver Institute of Engineering & Science we dedicated earlier today. The Vancouver-Portland area is one of the world’s semiconductor centers. Until now, this extremely promising industry has lacked a public research presence in the region. The new Institute will now provide that public research presence.

And now, those semiconductor companies will be better able to recruit highly educated and trained employees from right around here, locally.

I'm also delighted to hear that Bay Bridge Fabricators, LLC from the Vancouver/Portland area is a strong candidate for steel fabrication of the East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

My office has supported this potential project from the beginning. I’ve already directed appropriate state agencies to be prepared to expedite the permit processes, if the contract is awarded. We want to bring this opportunity to fruition as quickly as possible.

This regional partnership approach to bidding for significant contracts is a very smart model. If we land this contract, it will provide new jobs for the port, county, and the entire region. This is exactly the type of business we’re working hard to attract to our state. One that provides job creation, infrastructure improvements, and encourages regional collaboration.

We’ll all keep our fingers crossed that we land this work!

Indeed, in just the past two years, seven national and one international company have chosen Washington state to locate major facilities, including in the Vancouver area. Seven retail companies have chosen Washington over other Northwest states to build multi-state, regional distribution centers. And a South Korean biotech company announced just a few months ago that it is moving its U.S. operations from Colorado to Washington state.

And the good news just keeps coming for this region. It is my pleasure to announce this afternoon a new Job Skills Program that will benefit this region. The new program will provide manufacturing training for a partnership between Clark College and nLight, a high-power semi-conductor laser manufacturer.

The new program will be funded by a $42,000 grant through the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. And nLight will match the funding for the grant. Thanks Scott Kenney!

Both students from Clark College and over 50 nLight employees will participate in the 10-month long training. The training will focus on developing quality management systems based on the International Organization for Standardization—ISO.

This is a great partnership. It’s a great opportunity for Clark College students. And it gives those students a chance to assist local business and industry in becoming more competitive in the global marketplace.

Such strong, innovative partnerships between educational institutions, government, business, communities and students have never been more important. And this region is leading the way in making such partnerships work for everyone and building a more vibrant economic future.

This has been a very exciting day for me here in Vancouver. I have always enjoyed coming down here. There is an irrepressible spirit and determination to succeed here. You are a model of economic development and strategic partnerships for the rest of our state. You are doing the right things, and your efforts are paying off.

I also really enjoyed hearing these students from Fruit Valley Elementary School sing here today. And it’s good to know that this community is laying the foundation for a bright future filled with opportunity for our young musicians—and for all the children of this region.

Keep up the good work. Together, let’s continue to build a Washington that will always be a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

Thank you.

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