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Gov. Gregoire visits Island Rotary Club

Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire greets Islander Bo Darling at an Island Rotary Club meeting last week. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire greets Islander Bo Darling at an Island Rotary Club meeting last week.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

Washington’s economy remains stable amid a national recession due to increasing diversification, a solid export market from globalization and continuing growth among small businesses, Governor Chris Gregoire told over 100 Island Rotary Club members and guests on Tuesday.

The governor’s 45-minute speech touched on the state’s big issues, including education, the economy, health care and transportation. It was followed by a very brief question and answer session. Gregoire was the featured guest speaker of this month’s Rotary meeting at the Community Center at Mercer View. Much of her speech focused on Washington’s successful economy and the ability to succeed in the international market.

“We need to remain a free trade state,” she said. “We are a very trade-dependent state, so instead of working against globalization, let’s embrace it.”

The governor said the ability to export a large variety of Washington products around the globe was a significant factor in its continuing economic success. She explained that when she travels abroad, she flies on a plane made in Washington. After arriving, she said she sends e-mails through a program created in this state and, finally, she goes across the street from her hotel to get a coffee from a company founded here.

Washington has largely remained resilient to recession and the state’s economy could hardly be better, while the national economy is entering a slump and home prices across the nation have dropped, the governor said.

“We are now the envy of much of the country,” Gregoire said of the state after comparing Washington’s surplus to California’s multi-billion dollar deficit. “Washington state is resilient and will continue to be so if we continue to do what we are doing.”

As for climbing gas prices that are one of the highest in the nation, the governor said the state cannot be immune to every economic downturn.

“We are not an island,” she said. “We cannot resist all economic setbacks. I don’t mean to diminish all of the difficulties there are for citizens by highlighting how well the state is doing.”

She also said Washington was recently rated as one of the top three best managed states, and she pushed for future legislation that would provide better education and health care to the state’s children.

“If we want them to learn, they’ve got to be healthy,” she said.

The campaigning governor, who is seeking her second term this fall, began her talk by sharing some of the difficult tasks of planning for the “big day that looms closer and closer.” However, Gregoire conceded she was not talking about election day. She was joking about the difficulties of planning her eldest daughter’s wedding scheduled for August. The governor mentioned how times have changed this generation, with numerous bridal dress stores and the countless hours needed to try on hundreds of dresses before purchasing one.

“My husband and I have come up with a word for it,” the governor said. “We call it navigating through the wedding industrial complex.”

After her speech, Gregoire also met Mohammed Omar Abdullah, an international dignitary as the Undersecretary of the Department of Planning and Economy for the city of Abu Dhabi, the capital and second-most populated city of the United Arab Emirates. Abdullah was in western Washington to visit with Bill Gates and University of Washington President Mark Emmert.

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