Governor Kulongoski Explains How His Plan Has Been Able to Turn the Economy Around in Speech to OEDA

Gov. Kulongoski Remarks ~ As prepared for delivery

Good Afternoon.

Thank you Bill, for your introduction – and thank you for your outstanding service to the Oregon Economic Development Association and in your position as the Hood River County Economic Development Coordinator.

I can see why Bill Fashing was elected to serve as President of this organization for the past year -- he knows the value of partnership and cooperation, and Hood River County is now home to the new Cardinal Glass facility because of Bill’s partnership-building.

As you all know, my Number One priority since becoming Governor has been to grow the state’s economy—to grow the economic pie and provide more living-wage jobs for the people of Oregon. I have been and will continue to be committed to building more capacity and infrastructure in our economic system.

That commitment is reflected in my efforts to speed up the permitting process and reduce regulatory barriers in state government. I am committed to a state regulatory process that values the concept that “time is of the essence”--and delay and procrastination stand in the way of economic growth and job-creation.

I will not be satisfied until state government and the private sector ignite the Oregon economy so it becomes an engine for job growth and healthy profits.

The state plays a key role in building a healthy economy. But state government cannot do it alone. Building partnerships with local government, the private sector, economic development agencies, ports, and of course our education system is a critical component to a successful economic development strategy.

The strength of public/private partnership is evidenced by the membership of the Oregon Economic Development Association which provides an opportunity for each of us to better identify and coordinate our business recruitment efforts.

Today, I have been asked to share with you my vision for creating a successful economic development strategy for Oregon. The key to my economic development strategy is innovation. But, innovation is more than just technology. Electronics, biotechnology and nanotechnology are key to the vision, but innovation also must include small and even simple ways to make things better; to find new ways to reach our markets and to build better customer satisfaction and loyalty for Oregon businesses.

Whether it is the technology of a new running shoe, the distinctive taste of an Oregon micro-brew or the organic appeal of Oregon country beef, new ideas move our economy forward.

My Industrial Lands Program provides a great example of how Oregon has made things better for business. We have made it easier for businesses to invest in Oregon by providing industrial land sites shovel ready for development.

By resolving infrastructure and environmental issues before they become a delay, and by streamlining state, local and federal permitting processes, businesses are now able to invest in Oregon with more governmental coordination than ever before. That coordination results in greater certainty and a faster permitting process.

We are now seeing the results of this Industrial Lands shovel ready policy. Eight of the 31 sites OECDD certified during the last two years are now active projects. These projects expect to create more than 1,000 immediate jobs with new investments exceeding $128 million.

Most people in the room are familiar with the Lowe’s warehouse and distribution facility currently under construction in Lebanon. We recently heard from Lowe’s engineering team that the assistance and response from the State of Oregon “far exceeds anything they have ever experienced, anywhere in the nation.” The word is getting out – Oregon is open for business!

The Industrial Lands Program is an example of a successful partnership between the government and landowners. I thank all of our partners for making this program such a great success. And, the Oregonians who will hold family-wage jobs in the businesses locating on these sites also thank you.

The members of this association are unique in the economic development and job creation sector, because, for most of you, your primary focus is economic development as a whole. Not a single company, or even a single economic sector.

More than anyone else in the economic development world, you’re focused on the big picture…and that phrase, “the big picture” is a phrase that I want to talk about.

Oregon’s economic future, fueled by innovation, is dependent on a number of things, but most of all, we need to keep our eye on the “big picture”.

First, we must make strategic investments in infrastructure – Those investments must be keyed to where we want to be in the long-term. Yes, the short-term is important but we must keep our eye on the “big picture” –the long term. Government must expend and leverage resources to make sure our markets are open and accessible. We also need to keep the supply of project-ready industrial land a top priority. Planning for needed infrastructure – be it water, sewer, telecommunications or transportation – is key.

The $100 million multi-modal transportation program that recently passed the Oregon Legislature and that we refer to as Connect Oregon is such a long-term investment. That investment will have two economic-impact phases. One, short-term construction impacts that relate to expanding the state’s infrastructure for ports, rail, aviation, and transit. The second phase will be a long-term investment strategy with a focus on the long run in our multi-modal transportation infrastructure to build a healthy and diverse economy.

Second, Oregon must target investments in businesses and technologies that drive an innovation economy – In addition to education and training at our universities, we must invest in research and development that create innovative ideas and products. We must better partner with the private sector and bring those ideas and products to market. We must put the “D”—development—in “Research and Development.”

Once again, we must strategically invest our limited resources to recruit, expand and retain businesses that will help us achieve our goal for an Oregon economy based on innovation and sustainability.

Third, Oregon must continue to facilitate a positive business climate by reducing regulatory barriers to enable responsible growth. The Office of Regulatory Streamlining and the Governor’s Economic Revitalization Team (GERT) have improved coordination and communication among the various state, local, and federal agencies.

Government is starting to understand its role in promoting a healthy economy. Today, I expect all state agencies to recognize that they play a critical role in economic development, and understand that efficient and timely permitting can make or break a business development deal.

Last and most important, we must invest in human capital to allow us to compete in the global marketplace. And as people who understand the big picture, you know that the future economic growth of Oregon is dependent on one thing…our ability to create the best-educated, best-skilled, and best-trained workforce of any state in the country. That is Oregon’s competitive advantage in a national and global marketplace.

On a day-to-day basis, nobody sees the quality of our education system more clearly than you in the economic development sector. It is no coincidence that over the years, some of the most important leaders of business are also leaders in education development:

Bill Gates, who has become one of the most powerful forces for reforming our high schools.

Lew Platt, the former CEO of HP and Chairman of Boeing, who, until he died last month, was one of the leading advocates for preschool for all four-year-old children.

When our education system succeeds… job growth succeeds.

And when our education system fails to provide an educated, skilled, and trained workforce, our ability to grow the economy is diminished.

But as I talk about education, again, let’s stay focused on the big picture.

There’s no shortage of people committed to improving Oregon’s education system: teachers…. parents… business leaders… elected officials… we all want to improve the system. And there’s been no shortage of proposals for how to do it.

But too often, people miss the big picture. Instead of focusing on the whole education system, they focus on one aspect of it. They miss the key point that the whole system is connected. Preschool is connected to our K-12 system, which is connected to our community colleges, which is connected to our universities. It is an integrated and seamless system. It is an education enterprise.

You’ve all heard the truism that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Truisms are often true. And the same thing is true when it comes to our education system.

The whole system is connected. If one part of the system fails, the whole system fails. And that’s the premise of the education enterprise plan I released earlier this year.

A quality education system doesn’t start with kindergarten. It starts with preschool, because study after study has shown that kids who go to preschool are better prepared for kindergarten and beyond, and they’re more likely to stay in school, graduate, and go on to college or other skill training.

And a quality education system doesn’t end with 12th grade. Because as everybody in this room knows, in today’s global economy, graduating from high school won’t assure you of that living-wage job. We have to make sure our young people get the education, skills, and training they need to be competitive in our innovation economy.

Just as important, we have to make sure they can get that education and training here in Oregon. Because when kids go out of state to further their education, there’s a good chance they won’t be coming back home. We need those who were raised here to create the next Intel or Nike.

And when it comes to education beyond high school, a quality education system isn’t just limited to college, it also includes vocational training. We all know that while it is important to have engineers and scientists who create ideas and plans, it is just as important to have skilled workers – the people who can pick up the tools and build the bridges, roads, and buildings or assemble the computers and airplanes.

We’ve got to keep the big picture in sight all the time. Because if we don’t, too often, one element of our education system is pitted against another: K through 12 pitted against our community colleges, and our community colleges pitted against universities. Oregon loses unless the entire education enterprise wins.

Seeing the big picture means more than just looking at spending more. It also means looking at efficiencies and accountability, as those of you in the business world do every day, to make sure the maximum tax dollars available are spent in the classroom, where they can make the biggest difference.

Also, seeing the big picture means more than just looking at government’s role in education. It also means looking at parental involvement and student accountability. Because education isn’t just the responsibility of the schools and the government. It’s also the responsibility of students and parents.

But seeing the big picture also means recognizing the sad fact that too many kids don’t live in stable family situations. As much as we would like every child to have a stable family, sometimes that’s just not possible.

So in those cases, we have to take extra steps either to foster parental involvement or, when necessary, to make sure some other kind of guidance or mentoring is available outside the classroom.

Finally, when it comes to education, seeing the big picture also means understanding the importance of a stable source of funding. Schools aren’t businesses, but like businesses, they do better when they have the stability to plan for the future.

When the Legislature comes back into session in 2007, passing my education enterprise plan is going to be my top priority. Not just parts of it, but all of it – because all of the parts are connected.

As I said earlier, improving our education system is the key to Oregon’s economic future. So passing the education enterprise plan isn’t just my top education priority. It’s also my top economic development priority. It’s also my top rural development priority…my top labor priority… it’s even my top crime-prevention priority. Because when you look at the big picture – the way you all do every day – you see the connection.

A healthy and growing economy means more family-wage jobs. When more Oregonians are at work, government has the revenue to provide the services the citizens need, crime decreases, and the demand on social services also declines. That means that we have the resources to invest in our economic infrastructure.

In closing, I thank you all for being here today and I’m asking you to build on the partnerships we’ve forged for the last three years. I’m asking you to help me continue our investments in infrastructure and innovation. I’m asking you to work with me to inform and educate all Oregonians about the paramount importance and connection between education job growth, and economic development.

Working together as partners, the links in our chain will be strong and we will succeed in the long term.

Thank you.

Posted on December 20, 2005
Economy, Front Page News