Despite cuts to the budget and limited resources, Pullman must grow collectively in order to survive, WSU President Elson S. Floyd said during the Pullman 2020 community visioning process Thursday.
“Any organization that isn’t growing is dying,” he said.
The 2020 visioning process is a meeting designed by the City Council to discuss what the vision for the city in the future should be. Community members within Pullman came to the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) Event Center Thursday to discuss plans for the city.
Keynote speakers at the event were Floyd and SEL President Edmund O. Schweitzer III.
WSU needs to grow and the only means of doing so is to focus the university's limited resources and finding outlets for new ones, Floyd said.
“When I came to WSU it was clear to me that WSU was trying to be too many things for too many people,” Floyd said.
These last years saw a 52-percent budget cut that normally would force the university to shrink, but the university cannot afford to, Floyd said. He decided to focus the university to particular areas of academia.
Veterinary medicine runs high on his list of priorities, followed by engineering, communication, hospitality and science, he said. But, none of this can exist without some sort of means of additional income.
Businesses can be a resource by providing grants, he said. This is why the university has made engineering one of their major focuses, so that they can foster relationships with SEL.
“The bread and butter of our university are the students,"Floyd said."We have a large class, and that’s very intentional. We are becoming more tuition driven and need to grow the marketplace.”
Schweitzer also spoke at the event about his visions for Pullman.
“If we stop innovating, we will start fading away,” Schweitzer said. “The last few years we may have feared growth a bit and perhaps denied people some choices by fearing growth.”
There has been a focus in Pullman on high density in the past, but Pullman needs to encourage industrialization, he said. This means attracting businesses to the area and perhaps expanding the capacity for things like shopping centers.
While 1,800 people work for SEL, less and less of those workers live in Pullman, Schweitzer said. In fact, SEL is building a new factory in Lewiston due to the large number of employees that commute from there.
"I wish those people had chosen to live in Pullman, but they didn’t and that might reflect on the high cost of housing," he said.
Whitman has 1.3 million acres of farmland and if roughly averaged, one acre of wheat can provide $8,000 in profits, dependent on the harvest, Schweitzer said. While a single acre of housing can provide $10,000 in property taxes and prevent people from moving to Lewiston and Moscow, thereby losing business.