Visit, tour and Tom McCall lecture part of promoting Oregon as tech innovator
On a visit to Corvallis on Wednesday afternoon, Gov. John Kitzhaber was treated to a whirlwind tour of the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute, a joint initiative of Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Housed on the Hewlett-Packard campus, the institute is a combination research lab and manufacturing testbed where academics, government scientists and entrepreneurs are working to commercialize a dizzying variety of high-tech gizmos ranging from portable kidney dialysis machines to water desalination equipment to more efficient engines for unmanned aircraft.
Moving from one laboratory to the next, the governor shook hands, dispensed smiles and asked questions — lots and lots of questions.
“I think this is just a remarkable asset that we have here,” Kitzhaber said. “This industry is rapidly reaching critical mass here in Oregon.”
The innovative thinking on display at the institute is just the kind of thing the governor talked about Wednesday evening at OSU, where he delivered the university’s annual Tom McCall Lecture. The title of Kitzhaber’s talk: “Challenge to Change.”
It also was a theme he touched on repeatedly during a meeting earlier in the afternoon with the Gazette-Times’ editorial board.
“I think this is a point in our history where we have an opportunity to really transcend our worldview on some big systems,” he said.
The recession that has knocked a $3.5 billion hole in the state’s 2012-13 budget, he said, is forcing Oregonians to look closely at how we spend money on everything from health care to energy to education.
This is the perfect time, he argued, to completely rethink how those services are delivered — not only to save money but also to build a more sustainable future for the state.
“When the economy’s good,” he said, “you can’t have these conversations.”
Oregon has established itself as a leader in green engineering and innovative technology, and the state’s universities and signature research centers are continuing to lead the way in those areas. There’s no reason, Kitzhaber said, why we can’t cash in on those strengths to create new jobs while protecting the environment and way of life that make Oregon special.
Oregonians are “developing the expertise, products and services that the rest of the world’s going to need,” he said.
“We’ve got all the pieces. ... it’s a matter of connecting the dots.”
Contact Bennett Hall at 541-758-9529 or email@example.com.