Gov. Chris Gregoire Tuesday introduced on Tuesday a former Microsoft executive to run a newly named state Department of Commerce.
Washington needs to stake out its future even as it struggles to cope with a deepening national recession, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday, introducing a former Microsoft executive to run a newly named state Department of Commerce.
Rogers Weed, who has been a Microsoft vice president and publisher of the online magazine Slate, will direct the department formerly called Community, Economic and Trade Development, or CTED.
“I want Rogers to wake up every morning with a laser focus on keeping the companies and jobs we have, and bringing new jobs and companies to our state,” Gregoire told a lunch gathering.
She called on business, labor, community groups and citizens to put aside politics and work together on key areas, including education, affordable health care, infrastructure and “innovative government” and a “green economy.”
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“We can’t afford to just ride out this economic crisis and wait for things to turn around,” she said. “We must successfully navigate through it, so that we find ourselves in an even stronger position exiting this great recession than entering it.”
The state economy “fell off a cliff” in October and November, she said. She added that the worst of the recession is probably still ahead.
New bond measures and combining part-time state unemployment benefits with part-time work could be solutions for retaining jobs, she said.
Gregoire proposed streamlining CTED, a department with a budget of more than $2 billion that has become a catchall for programs from emergency food assistance to control of lead hazards.
If the state doesn’t plan ahead, it runs the risk of ending up like Detroit, once a place of innovation, Gregoire said. “With change occurring at mind-boggling speed, we can’t rest on our laurels,” she said.
The state’s education system hasn’t prepared enough students for the 21st century, she said. In the past three years, its colleges and universities produced only 86 math teachers to serve nearly 300 school districts.
Its universities rank 36th in the number of science and engineering graduates, but the state is No. 1 in demand for those graduates.
Weed said the state has advantages of a diversified economy; a gateway to emerging economies; clean, cheap electricity and a quality of life envied by much of the country.
From 2005 to 2007, the state was responsible for one-third of all U.S. trade with India at a time trade was growing at 50 percent a year, he said.
“I’m fired up to take this role,” Weed said. He said he applied for the post when he heard CTED director Juli Wikerson was retiring. He begins next week, at a $147,000 salary.
The audience included former Gov. Gary Locke, President Obama’s nominee for commerce secretary.
“The whole country is facing really tough times, but the Department of Commerce has an ability to help the president on his economic stimulus,” Locke said. “The department has to and will take a more active role in helping business compete, be more effective, more competitive.”
Locke said he will commute between Seattle and Washington, D.C., until his family moves in late summer. He said he would bring a focus on “management, measurement and deliverables” to the position.
“I think I’ll be able to bring the perspective of people outside of Washington, D.C., away from the Beltway and New York.
“Regardless of the issue, it’s ideal for the Pacific Northwest to have a voice in the administration,” Locke said.
Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718 or firstname.lastname@example.org