SEATTLE – Demanding a “laser focus” on keeping and developing family-wage jobs, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday named former Microsoft Corp. executive A. Rogers Weed IV as state commerce secretary.
Announcing the appointment at a luncheon sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and two other business groups, Gregoire said Washington will emerge stronger from the recession only by remaining a “hotbed of innovation” in aerospace, information technology, agriculture and retailing.
She said doing that involves education, especially early childhood learning – “the single smartest investment that we can make with the greatest return for that child and for the state economically” and high school dropout prevention programs.
“I think it’s unfortunate as can be that we lose the 30 percent of our kids who don’t graduate from high school,” Gregoire said. “That’s a huge loss to us and a huge expense because it isn’t as if we won’t see them tomorrow.
“We’ll see them. We’ll see them having to get public assistance. We’ll see them end up in our criminal justice system or even in our juvenile justice system.”
Gregoire also touted legislation she is seeking to reconstitute the agency Weed will head – currently the Department of Community Trade and Economic Development – as the state Department of Commerce. The measure, HB2242, is awaiting a floor vote in the House.
Weed earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Duke University and a master’s in business administration at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, then spent 15 years at Microsoft, working on projects ranging from pocket computers to Encarta and rising to vice president of Windows product management.
“He is the essence of an innovator,” Gregoire said.
He begins his new job next Tuesday with an annual salary of $147,000.
“I’ve asked Rogers to wake up every morning with a laser focus on keeping the great companies and the jobs that we have here in our state and bringing new jobs and companies,” the governor said.
Addressing the business luncheon briefly, Weed said he was “fired up to take on this role.” He said the state’s strengths in economic development include a diverse business base, strength in international trade, plenty of clean and renewable energy and a high quality of life.