EUGENE, Ore. — Governor Kitzhaber had his hands full Tuesday with local business leaders and community members to hash out all things economy and education.
But he didn’t wear his cowboy boots and jeans for no reason. There was some casual fun thrown in too.
Governor Kitzhaber not only got to tour one of the fastest growing local breweries–Ninkasi–but he got to ride there in an Archimoto vehicle.
In between the fun, there was some serious discussions about the local economy and the key link to education.
“This is a real hard time for Oregonians. We still have an 8.6 unemployment rate. People are really struggling to pay their mortgages, struggling to pay for health care, and we need to find people jobs. The interesting thing, there are a lot of unfilled jobs even during this recession,” Kitzhaber said.
One thing he says is filling those jobs is WorkSource Lane, the first stop on the governor’s education and economy fueled tour through Eugene.
“If you’re out of work in Lane County, this is a good place to come,” Kitzhaber said.
The governor says it’s is an incredible resource for both the unemployed and employers.
“Gives the job seeker the ability to take a test, to demonstrate that they have the skills to train for a specific job and specific company, and there’s a very high retention rate for people who have gone through this program,” Kitzhaber said.
Surrounded by other local leaders, the governor picked the brains of reps from local software and manufacturing companies, including electric car company Archimoto, hashing out trends they’ve seen in the local economy with regard to employment and desired skill levels.
When it comes to keeping growing local companies here in Lane County, like for example Ninkasi, the second stop on the governor’s trip, he says it’s twofold. Companies need a skilled workforce and investment capital.
“The invest Oregon act that we passed last session, in which I’ve got $5 million of seed money, should begin to provide more access to capital for some of these local companies, and you know we’ve got a great national advantage. People like to live in Oregon, and a winning football team doesn’t hurt,” Kitzhaber said.
The key focus of the day was obvious–the connection between education and the local economy.
“We have to re-organize the structure of the system to get more uniform and more focused on student success,” Kitzhaber said.
That’s why Governor Kitzhaber also met with the 4J School District–to hear about a new teacher evaluation system. He says public education also needs more money.
“Those two things I think within a couple years we’re gonna see some real changes and improvement in our system,” Kitzhaber said.
Kitzhaber wrapped things up with higher education. He met with both Oregon State University and the University of Oregon and entrepreneurs about the possibility of investing millions of federal dollars in research and development at the universities.