South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds issued the following press release:

Job creation and improving transportation to accommodate increased trade topped the agenda on the opening day of the Western Governors’ Association’s winter meeting last week.

Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, WGA Chair, led the discussion on the best ways to prepare a Western workforce for jobs of the future. She was joined by Govs. Mike Rounds (SD), WGA Vice Chair; Brian Schweitzer (Montana); Jon Huntsman, Jr. (Utah); and Dave Freudenthal (Wyoming).

“Over the next 15 years, the Western US economy will create millions of new jobs. At the same time, many existing jobs will be lost,” Napolitano said. “The best paying new jobs will require advanced education and training. Part of the challenge is to ensure that young people who graduate from public schools in the West are educated and ready for the skills the Western job markets will demand. It’s a critical issue.”

One of Gov. Napolitano’s priorities as Chair has been to examine case studies and successful strategies from around the nation and the world “to ensure our region’s economic vitality and environmental health are protected and improved.”

Gov. Huntsman is scheduled to lead a second roundtable discussion entitled, Transportation and Trade: Growth Without Gridlock.

“The US Chamber of Commerce estimates that by the year 2020 international trade volumes will nearly double,” Huntsman said. “Some West Coast ports are expected to need to quadruple the amount of cargo they handle. This means additional trucks and trains hauling these goods across our region. Add the expected 30 million more people in the West in the next 25 years and we face potential gridlock.”

Huntsman said WGA will engage transportation users, builders and communities to jointly define actions needed to shape coordinated investments in the region’s transportation infrastructure. WGA and state highway directors will conduct a series of policy forums over the next three years to engage stakeholders in creating a comprehensive Western regional transportation agenda.

On Nov. 9 the governors were expected to turn their attention to emergency preparedness and the states’ readiness to respond to potential disasters. James Lee Witt, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was scheduled to join the governors for that discussion.

The Western Governors’ Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three US-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.