Robert Herold is a distinguished thinker. What happened on the SIRTI column ("An un-SIRTI future," 3/1/01)?
This region needs more university research, to be sure. That's why the community has supported efforts by EWU and WSU to get the authority and funding to support computer science, information technology and biotechnology programs in the Spokane region. SIRTI is focused on commercialization of technology, whether from a university lab or from an independent entrepreneur. SIRTI is hitting its performance targets -- new companies and new jobs. SIRTI is also working with the Washington Technology Council, APEL and the Governor's Office in developing a statewide technology organization, within a statewide technology plan.
The key to SIRTI's success has been its grounding in the business community and linkage to higher education -- not the other way around.
Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce
Nice job Robert Herold! SIRTI is a waste of time and money. The only benefit is that all of Washington State taxpayers are funding SIRTI, therefore Spokane's taxpayers are not left holding the bag (exclusively) on this one. While it is a waste of time and money, it may have a silver lining in the end. I am hopeful the state will continue to fund several more of these enormous buildings. Eventually everyone will agree SIRTI is a failure, and the community will look for an alternative use. WSU is the logical user.
This community desperately needs a major publicly funded research university. SIRTI "should be" a major branch campus of WSU. If not WSU, then perhaps Gonzaga will be in a position to acquire the improvements for 10 cents on the dollar! One way or the other, to effectively compete in this new century, Spokane needs a major college presence with graduate and doctoral programs. My advice is to let the state fund these buildings, then turn it over to WSU.
Also, good work with the article on City/County consolidation ("Annexation or death," 2/15/01). Spokane's problem is that Spokane fights Spokane. North v. South, and the Valley against everyone else. Spokane has to realize that the enemy is Portland, Seattle, Boise, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Salt Lake, etc. This community has to realize that we are competing with the rest of the U.S. for jobs. Spokane has fallen behind nearly every other major city we compete with because we are preoccupied with battling each other.
There is no status quo: We are either moving forward or we are moving backward. Every dollar invested in Boise represents a dollar that will never be invested in Spokane. Each new high-paying tech job that lands in Boise will never occur here. For Spokane to achieve success, consolidation is probably the single most important issue. I wish more people had your insight.
Allow me to preface my response to Robert Herold's commentary entitled "An un-SIRTI future" and the premise that "It's time to pull the plug on a concept that just never took off" by stating up front that I am not partial to the naysayers of our community who regularly frequent our media hammering us with negativity. That said, I did appreciate the closing reference to a concept of SIRTI serving as a "Center of Excellence" akin to a model facility used in Utah. SIRTI most certainly can and should act as a regional focal point for a steady flow of communication among advanced business technicians, higher education professionals and key government heads serving Eastern Washington interests.
But why not more? As a community that now has in place some 350 miles of fiber optic cable running from Airway Heights to Coeur d'Alene, and the capacity to operate a 21st-century regional economic rebirth with unprecedented growth along the Spokane-Kootenai corridor, I suggest the following for SIRTI:
1) Academics in our institutions of higher learning, especially in the sciences and engineering, ought to maintain offices in this burgeoning hub of activity. Commutes to classrooms in Pullman and Cheney, if not done by telecommunication and video relay, ought to emanate from Spokane and not vice versa.
2) Academic scientists utilizing various grants and institutional resources are largely working on very focused areas to find better applications in areas such as agriculture, biology, energy, environment and health. This research most certainly has commercial applications, which should be capitalized upon. Return on investment is a fact of life in academia as well as in business and government.
3) Academic scientists need to listen to (and be listened to by) their range of collaborators, including persons in the business world, peers in their academic fields of study and students. They must care about the economic development agenda, as well as the human, environmental, scientific and social development agendas that encompass their research and teaching fields.
Could more doctoral programs be housed in the Spokane region? Undoubtedly. For example, WSU-Pullman could focus its energies and resources on undergraduate education and graduate studies in the agricultural and veterinary sciences. WSU-Spokane could house engineering and bio/health sciences. Geography and distances are not the real issues. The real issues are attitude, flexibility and a dedicated effort to make the SIRTI vision and vibrant regional prosperity a reality. We can do this, Spokane. We can do this.