Yakima County Development Association - Annual Meeting Focuses on Economy and Education

Jonathan Smith

The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news. 



Annual Meeting Focuses on Economy and Education

Annual Meeting Focuses on Economy and Education

March 29, 2013

McDowell and AllenNew Vision’s yearly investor meeting went well this week as we put an exclamation point on a successful year in 2012.  Our office saw an economic rebound at the local level with many companies investing in facilities and adding to payrolls.  The health of our manufacturing sector complemented Yakima County’s farm sector which is also doing well.

Prospective interest from expanding business also increased dramatically.  We started hosting companies in earnest in May 2012 and have been busy ever since.  Along the way Paragon Films and Arvato Digital Services decided to locate new facilities within the region.  These companies will hire over 200 employees as they grow towards full capacity.

Board Chair Brad McDowell thanked our past chair Doug Rich for his service and recognized current and former Board members.  McDowell also commented on economic development saying that our organization’s activities touch everyone in the Valley.  When a company adds jobs their impacts ripple through the entire community.

After providing a report on 2012 the meeting focused on education and the need for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) literacy.  I suggested that educational attainment is our number one economic development issue in Yakima County.  Over 1/3 of our population is under 20 and we have over 50,000 kids in K-12 schools.  How we develop these young minds will be a key to our future economic success.

Educating our younger generation is at once a huge opportunity and challenge.  With an enormous amount of baby boomers headed towards retirement within 10-15 years we have a chance to backfill a lot of great jobs.  We also know that the jobs created by local companies will demand higher skills in the future.  If we can get kids onto the right educational paths they stand to benefit enormously and our community wins as well.  The challenge comes into play if we fail to rise to this educational challenge.  Without adequately trained people our businesses and Valley will suffer. 

Dean Allen from McKinstry highlighted the meeting.  He talked about his company’s growth from humble roots as a plumbing contractor.  McKinstry employs over 1500 people and Dean attributes their success to the people and the skills they bring to the job.  Allen went on to discuss the importance of STEM education.

dean allenAllen said that although Washington State is a leader in technology employment we rank 46th out of 50 states for participation in science and engineering graduate programs.  Washington is also challenged in that:

    • Almost half of Washington’s 4th grade teachers report teaching science for less than two hours per week. Only four states reported less science instruction; and
    • The mismatch between the skills required for available jobs and individuals with those skills is growing faster than all but one other state.

Allen chairs a group called Washington STEM.  It is a group of business and education leaders that are advocating for educational improvement.  Dean was very clear that STEM cannot become the province of gifted kids.  All our students will need to be STEM literate and the sooner the better.

Washington STEM has provided seed funds to Educational Service District 105 (ESD) for development of a STEM plan for Central Washington.   The plan is nearing completing and hopefully will serve as a springboard for needed educational initiatives in the Yakima Valley.

Over 200 people joined us for our celebration of another year.  New Vision had a successful 2012 and we are enthused about our region’s prospects for the future.

Dean Allen's annual mtg. presentation 

To visit ESD 105’s STEM education website click here

To get a copy of our annual report click here

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