I was lucky enough to spend a few days last week at a conference hosted by an organization I’ve come to greatly admire called PNWER. PNWER stands for Pacific NorthWest Economic Region and it is a bi-national (U.S.A. and Canada), multi-partisan, public-private organization. In other words, there’s a lot of potential conflict going on there.
Officially, PNWER is a “public-private partnership chartered by the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington; the western Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan; and Yukon and the Northwest Territories … PNWER is dedicated to encouraging global economic competitiveness and preserving our world-class natural environment.”
Unofficially, it’s a great example of what can happen when smart, hardworking policymakers and business leaders are willing to work together toward the simple goal of making life better for the folks back home.
Some of the issues being worked on by PNWER include updating certification requirements for trades such as welding to allow easier cross-border work opportunities, particularly for veterans; streamlining border crossing rules to allow more efficient movement of goods between our countries; and learning about each other’s best practices for energy production that fosters energy independence alongside environmental sustainability.
Each of these issues could easily devolve into a “what about me and mine” whine-fest. But it doesn’t. Even really tough issues between our countries, like the Keystone-XL Pipeline, are dealt with professionally and cordially.
The leadership of the organization obviously gets a lot of the credit for this, as do the policymakers and business representatives who bring their best, most grown-up selves to these discussions. Of course, the fun and tasty pitchfork fondue and the great scenery (we were in Montana after all) probably also contributed. In addition to the pitchfork fondue, one of my favorite events was a speaker who urged us to strive for “Kitty Hawk moments,” referring to the small town in North Carolina where the impossibility of flight morphed into reality.
At a time when we hear so often about self-centered, juvenile behavior run amok among our politicians and executives, it was refreshing to spend a few days among people, so many of whom hail from small towns and rural areas, willing to work together for the greater good. Cooperation and collaboration? Maybe so. After all, there’s an organization out there that’s already doing it. Beyond the whine-fest, Kitty Hawk moments seemed within reach again.
Learn more about Diane by following her column here or visit American Rural at AmericanRural.org.