WALLA WALLA -- The recent announcement of the two winners of the Governor's Best Practices Award for Workforce and Economic Development for 2010 surprised at least one recipient.
Karen Lennon, director of Walla Walla Community College Water and Environmental Center, was "stunned, excited and proud."
The awards recognize projects that combine education and training to create a skilled work force, generate jobs, improve business performance and enhance the economy.
The Water and Environmental Center is a unique collaboration under one roof of the Walla Walla Watershed Management Partnership, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Washington State Department of Ecology, the Sustainable Living Center and professional education and environmental management staff at Walla Walla Community College.
"The idea of the center is pretty amazing," Lennon said.
"All these agencies, like in so many other areas, could have easily gone to battle for water; instead, the center has brought people together," she said. "The governor actually coined a phrase for what we're doing in the basin. She says it's 'the Walla Walla way,' working together rather than doing battle."
Lennon said the center has made it possible to expand regional education programs in water resources and management.
"We train workers in irrigation technology, water resources technology and watershed ecology," she said. "It's also a research and development facility seeking solutions for critical water resource issues."
The center is the result of people recognizing that economic growth in Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Valley depends on water, she said.
In a news release, Gov. Christine Gregoire said, "The Water and Environmental Center has taken an issue that has for years divided economic interests in Eastern Washington and brought them together to explore innovations in technology and diplomacy that can convert this conflict into solutions ...."
The Center opened in October 2007.
The second winner was The King County Jobs Initiative in the Seattle area. The program, which has been running for 12 years, helps low-income people, including those with criminal records, become certified in toxic and hazardous clean up work.
The two projects have created more than 100 jobs while training an additional 115 job seekers. Gregoire said many of the jobs generated are in demand and provide living wages, helping ensure their trainees go to work right away.
* Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org