A Puget Sound business leader yesterday told the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce the “CWU is one of the most valuable assets Washington state has.” Bob Drewel, the executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), keynoted the annual meeting of the new economic development group. He emphasized the need to increase educational attainment in order to compete in the knowledge economy.
The PSRC is the parent organization of the Prosperity Partnership, a group of business leaders who are trying to convince the legislature to support higher education. The group led a drive for higher ed funding in 2005 and was successful—but Drewel said half of that funding is now gone.
Drewel, former executive of Snohomish County, said the council had again made higher education a priority because of the need to grow a knowledge-based workforce. He said business and government leaders in Snohomish, King, Pierce, and Kitsap counties have realized that education is the key to growing the region’s economic based and being able to compete globally. Drewel summed that perspective up this way, “The region with the most smart people wins!”
The PSRC analyses economic potential by industry groups or “clusters,” many of which Drewel said would be particularly important for the central Washington economy as well as that of the Puget Sound region and the state as a whole.
Noting the nexus of Kittitas county and CWU to the renewable energy industry, he predicted “clean” technologies could be a tremendous growth area, from sustainable transportation systems to clean energy. He also said it would be important for economic development groups to understand the presence of military personnel in the state and the potential of this “industry” to create jobs. A PSPRC study of employment and revenue generated by the state’s military installations and defense contracting activity revealed an economic impact of more than $12 billion.