PASCO – WSU could play an important role in helping the state become a leader in Bioenergy, according to John Gardner, WSU vice president for economic development and extension.
Speaking Thursday at a WSU conference examining economic issues, Gardner said that WSU has the obligation as a land-grant university to convene the public, private and philanthropic sectors to address complex issues facing the state, including bioenergy.
“I submit that WSU in a very benevolent way should be that kind of convener,” he said. “I would suggest that it’s not only our responsibility. I would suggest that it is our obligation as the state’s land-grant university.
Gardner said this doesn’t mean WSU will have all the expertise. Instead, it means that as the state’s land-grant university, it has the footprint of the state in hand. He stressed the university’s connection to every county and government in the state.
“We’re tied with many municipalities in terms of the small business development centers and learning centers,” he said. “We’ve got four campuses located strategically. I would suggest that WSU has the social network, the geographic network and the legacy of being a land-grant university to help be this convener.”
But how would WSU participate?
First, Gardner said, “We consult businesses. We’ve done this as a long time and we continue to do it but it is going to be ever more important in the future.”
He also said that WSU should  play a role in helping government develop better policies. “I know that we’ve done it before,” he said. “We’ve already had discussions with the governor, the economic development committees in the House and in the Senate in terms of using WSU in trying to do the analytics behind developing better policy.”
Finally, WSU should  research for the new ideas itself. “We have the kind of expertise in raw research talent,” he said.”WSU should contribute that to this whole issue.”
The biggest challenge is the most nebulous one, he said. “That’s the issue of cultural change. We’re moving from an economy that is based on assets and jobs and a career ladder that would last for decades, based on a whole industrial model that is frankly disappearing before our eyes.”