News Releases

Photo: Murray Speaking

Thank you, Father Spitzer.

I’m proud to join with you, Dean Prusch, Congressman Nethercutt, and everyone here to dedicate this great center.

In this holiday season it is appropriate to take a moment to remind ourselves that we have much to give thanks for. And today the world can be very thankful for the tremendous work of our American troops and their successful capture of Saddam Hussein. Like all of you I hope and pray that this will bring peace to a troubled world.

But before I share my congratulations as a Senator, I want -- as a Cougar -- to offer my thanks to Gonzaga. As you know, my Cougars lost to the Huskies in the Apple Cup last month, and it was a tough loss. But two weeks ago, your Bulldogs beat the Huskies, and I want to thank you for that and of course the game against Missouri gave us much needed inspiration.

Of course, athletics is just one part of Gonzaga’s commitment to educating the whole person – mind, body and spirit. Today, you’re strengthening that commitment by offering your students an in-depth, real world education in the uses and challenges of our natural resources.

Four years ago, Father Spitzer shared with me his vision for this Center. In the years since, I’ve been proud to secure $3.2 million in the Senate to turn that vision into a reality.

I just got a tour of the center, and I’m so impressed by what the university, foundations, and community leaders have created. This is a great addition to the university. It truly will “narrow the distance” between the classroom and the outside world – giving your students the skills to tackle some of our biggest challenges. And it will be a great resource for our state and the entire region -- providing the scientific expertise to support jobs and businesses throughout the region.

As you know, I am a WSU alumnus. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time in Spokane and Eastern Washington, and I look on this facility as a great addition – not only to the University – but also to the broader community.

It’s another example of how the University is taking a leadership role on issues important to Spokane and the region.

These days, our state – and Eastern Washington in particular – are facing a lot of challenges. Many people are out of work, and a lot of our smaller communities are losing their only doctors, small businesses are closing and they fear losing their economic base.

Our traditional industries like agriculture, mining and timber have been hurt by the downturn in the global economy, by consolidation, and by foreign competition. They’ve also struggled with high energy costs and regulations. All of those challenges are impacting many of our families, and we’ve got to do all we can for those families by extending unemployment benefits and by funding job centers and by getting barriers out of their way and creating opportunities for them to succeed.

When I was in college and my family was going through hard times, it was a government supported job-training program that allowed my mom to get the skills to be an accountant so she could support our family and my father’s medical bills. So I know the importance of helping families through hard economic times so they can be independent!

We also have to invest in new areas that will create the jobs of the future, and that’s one of the ways this center will help our entire region. Dean Prusch referred to the center as “Inarc.” I call it an “Economic Engine” because it will build the expertise that will help drive our economy forward!

Students and researchers will explore issues that have a direct impact on agriculture, natural resources and our economy.

There’s today, as there is always, a lot of work to be done on the issues affecting our natural resources – from lumber disputes to forest management.

I’ve been working with colleagues to urge the Administration to resolve the Canadian softwood lumber import issue. There is a new proposed settlement, and I hope it will offer a good compromise for both countries.

I worked on and voted for legislation that will reduce fuel loads in our forests. If done right, it will protect communities and provide jobs to local people and companies.

And I’ve been proud to help keep resource-based industries open. This year, I secured funding to improve a road in Ferry County so that a mining operation can stay in business and provide jobs year-round.

And beyond those traditional industries, there are new fields that we’re investing in.

Later today, I’ll visit the Gady Farm – not far from here – where they’re working to turn straw waste into energy. This year I got $750,000 for the project so we can help both the environment and our ag economy.

And I’m working to make other investments in the future of the region – like the University District. Gonzaga is part of a very strong educational infrastructure in Spokane, and I’ve been working with local leaders to find ways to make this a research and health care center.

This year, I was proud to secure $1 million in transportation funds to support the development of the University District an important project that has great economic potential for Spokane.

So there are lots of ways that we’re working together to invest in this region.

I know this new research center is part of a strong, stable future for Spokane and the entire Inland Northwest.

I’m proud that Gonzaga University is -- once again -- on the forefront of addressing the needs of both students and the community.

And I’m proud to support your work in the Senate.

Thank you, and “Go Zags!”