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This Ain't Kansas, Dorothy!
Our Regional Strides

Because of WSTA’s upcoming Western Washington Summit with a keynote by Museum of Flight’s CEO Doug King and Raisbeck Aviation High School, I was engaged in several email threads the other day regarding science, technology, enginnering, and math (STEM) initiatives in the Kitsap region.

At the end of one communique, an economic development professional concurred with a WWS2013 speaker about addressing Prosperity Partnership priorities, including education reforms and workforce skills which emphasised high value contributions of STEM students to our knowledge based / innovative regional economy. He ended with “This ain’t Kansas, Dorothy!”

Indeed.

When I co-chaired Kitsap Economic Development Council’s (now Alliance) Regional Telecommunications Committee (KRTC) with Ed Stern years ago, an innovative, knowledge-based economy was the driving ‘killer app’ advanced to support broadband’s critical necessity.  West Sound Technology Professionals Association (now WSTA) was an idea in formation by several individuals, including Dale King, Michael Besselievre, and others - though considered an offshoot of KRTC efforts. In many respects, one of the premises for WSTA’s formation nearly 14 years ago was precisely that Kitsap wasn’t Kansas - if it ever really was.

Since that time, the organisation has partnered with Washington Technology Industry Association (formerly WSA), MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest (MITEF), Northwest Entrepreneur Network (NWEN), The Shidler Center for Law, Commerce and Technology at the University of Washington School of Law, Prosperity Partnership/PSRC, and Technology Alliance (TA) regarding several initiatives, including the need to add more STEM classes to the school curriculum.

In 2002, I practically dragged then TA board chair Ken Meyer to WSTA’s inaugural Western Washington Summit to address quality in education, and - in front of a packed Sons of Norway - pointedly asked that the association be included as a Technology Alliance Associate because this region mattered beyond its perception as a bedroom community to Seattle metro.

As a result of these alliances and collective lobbying efforts, initiatives such as Washington Learns, Excellent Schools Now, and the STEM curriculum now in effect were born. Technology Alliance Associates also advocated for private sector leadership, resulting in Governor Gregoire’s appointment of Rogers Weed as director of the state’s commerce department. 

Every year, WSTA attends Technology Alliance’s annual State of Technology Luncheon. Afterwards, WSTA’s board meets with leadership from other statewide Associates board members. This year, Trip Switzer (‎Vice President of Development at The Museum of Flight) sat at our table, introduced himself, and  spoke about the excitement of Raisbeck’s upcoming opening. We immediately expressed interest in the topic for Western Washington Summit 2013; WSTA has long supported aviation as a component of the defense, aviation, and high/clean tech cluster. Since I serve on the OC Foundation’s board, and chaired OC’s Business Management Advisory Committee, getting Olympic College on the agenda to share its admirable strides was a no brainer.

The really brill kicker is Raisbeck is not just a story about the first college preparatory aviation-themed high school in the nation: approximately 50 percent of its student body comes from surrounding districts  — including Bremerton.

Kitsap definitely ain’t Kansas. It has consultants with international clientele, businesses whose leaders regularly walk through the halls of the White House or Pentagon, Ivy League alumni, and areas where over 40% of residents make significant primary income from a home office. Perhaps there are some who just look at the aircraft carriers or military and forget they also house nuclear physicists, but thanks to organisations like WSTA, I am not one of them.

 
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Dona Keating's picture
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