Gov. Gary Locke deserves thanks from all the residents of Klickitat County for his personal efforts to help pull this county out of the economic doldrums.
Locke has visited the county several times in recent years, and appears to have taken a personal interest in helping the county reduce its chronically-high unemployment rate. The governor has forged cooperative relationships with the Klickitat County Commissioners and Miland Walling, who has developed close and friendly ties with the governor as a member of the county's Public Economic Development Authority.
When Gov. Locke toured the SDS Lumber Co. mill with SDS President Jason Spadaro in August 1999, it represented the first visit by an incumbent Washington governor since 1989. With this week's schedule, we've now seen the governor in the county three times in the last four years.
After the 1999 tour, Dana Peck, director of the Klickitat County Economic Development Department, was right on the money with his analysis of Locke's visit: "What we're encouraged about is the fact he put his most scarce resource on the line for us -- his time," Peck said then.
The presence of the governor on the ground in Klickitat County has provided a direct boost for industry leaders, local political representatives, and others working to boost the county's fortunes. By coming here to see for himself, Gov. Locke is setting a tone for his administration. He has endeavored to do more to support rural communities that have been hit hardest by economic troubles, and his presence here, at the very least, demonstrates moral support.
But it's been a lot more than that: Locke and his staff have worked to help guide funding support for major infrastructure projects, including the wastewater plants in both Dallesport and Bingen. State grants have helped the recent expansion of the water system linking White Salmon, Bingen, and the Port of Klickitat property. State funds have also backed the construction of several of the buildings at the Port's business incubation center at Bingen Point.
Gov. Locke has taken it upon himself to provide a bit of extra support for this county, and to establish positive and cooperative relationships with those who live and work here.
The governor has earned our sincere thanks and appreciation.