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Kitsap high-tech needs more upgrades

POULSBO – Growing technology will take more than investing in circuits and hardware, speakers at a local technology summit said this week.

The theme of the 2nd annual West Sound Technology Professionals Association Western Washington Summit was “Empowering the Vision.” Guest speakers Thursday evening at the Sons of Norway’s Grieg Hall focused on where the West Sound is in the technology world, but more importantly what it needs to do to get farther.

Congressman Jay Inslee commended the work that has been done to bring Kitsap County into the forefront of technology. He mentioned the statistic that $100 million in productivity is lost to commuting and that perhaps nowhere else in the Puget Sound would this be more relevant than in the Kitsap Peninsula.

“We just have a tremendous opportunity in Kitsap County as a result of the visionary work that’s being done here,” Inslee said, later adding. “We used to sell timber in Kitsap County but now the value of our community is intellectual property.”

Last year, Kitsap County spent $70 million investing in system upgrades mentioned Sprint Spokesperson Brad Camp. He commented that this points to a climate that welcomes new technology.

“Kitsap County is a technologically-oriented community,” Camp said. “We just have a lot of willing businesses and people used to using technology.”

But the reality check is that there’s still a long way to go before Kitsap County can count itself one of the larger technology hubs.

Former Congressman and Poulsbo resident Rick White, who served as the keynote speaker for the event, said he sees tremendous opportunity for Kitsap.

“I represented this little side of the county in Congress and I always felt the future of our county should be in technology,” White said. “We still haven’t done as much as we’d like to do. We’ve talked about additional money for military bases and I think that’s worthy but we also need to start moving our economy toward the private sector, and that’s technology.”

Security is one area that needs much more attention, contended guest speaker Dr. Nancy Harkrider of Washington Regional Alliance for Infrastructure and Network Security. She suggested that international terrorists and hackers were not much different from one another in that they have a lot of things to take from a community.

“Technology has empowered things in this world that our parents and grandparents and even some of us would have thought impossible,” Harkrider said. “But the problem is vulnerability. Most companies large and small aren’t spending enough time on precaution.”

Harkrider suggested that in this “post-terrorism age,” as she called it, government and industry work together to create security systems. She said whether dealing with homeland safety or business network breaches, the problem remains the same.

“We need more overlapping so we’re not replicating ourselves in these systems,” Harkrider commented.

Guest speaker Ken Myer, president of the Technology Alliance contended that Washington as a whole still has a ways to go before it can assert itself in the technology world. Myer shared data about where Washington stands in the nation and in a peer group of eight states in the economic drivers of education, an entrepreneurial environment and research. Among his national statistics:

•Washington rates 18th in having students in the top 20 percent of college entrance exams (Washington was 13th previously)

•Washington rates 32nd in producing bachelor’s degrees, 29th for master’s degrees and 34th in science and engineering degrees

•Washington ranks 46th in money for research in development

•Washington ranks 20th in new startup companies

Myer said the disturbing factor about these numbers was that though Washington produces a rather low number of science and engineering degrees, that there are a very high number of scientists and engineers in the state’s work force.

“This means we’re importing talent,” Myer told the crowd. “If we don’t become a center of excellence, people are going to move elsewhere. We can’t just rely on Mt. Rainier to keep them here.”

Myer proposed that Washington focus on producing a high-tech work force from within, rather than relying on talent to come from somewhere else. He said it was paramount that the state reinvest in its educational system to build its potential in the technology sector.

“We have to make some choices,” Myer commented. “When you’re in good times, you don’t think about investing in the future because you think you won’t need in. When you’re in bad times, you don’t invest in the future because you think you can’t afford it.”

PowerPoint presentations from all WSTPA Summit speakers will be available on WSTPA’s Web site at www.wstpa.org.

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