Part 1: A closer look at the Edmonds Economic Development Commission

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By Frank Yamamoto, Chair
Edmonds Economic Development Commission

The following is the first in a series of articles that will appear on MyEdmondsNews.com, summarizing the work of the Edmonds Economic Development Commission.

The Edmonds Economic Development Commission (EDC), made up of 17 citizens all committed to improving the economy of this City, was constituted by the Edmonds City Council in 2009 to seek ways to improve the City’s financial situation.  The commission has four subcommittees – strategic planning, technology, land use, and tourism – and this week we will describe in more detail the work of each, beginning with strategic planning.

The structure of the City’s economy influences the City’s physical development and determines the City’s capacity to fund essential services.  It is imperative that the City of Edmonds be positioned to create and maintain economic growth and sustainability.

Strategic planning helps to prioritize and balance community interests; it is a valuable guide towards achieving this end. A well-conceived strategic plan, tied closely to measurable outcomes and a realistic implementation process, provides a city’s leadership with the direction and authority to act decisively, seize opportunities as they arrive, and overcome obstacles. A strategic plan allows city leadership to make decisions with the confidence that they are responding to the citizens’ needs and desires.

A strategic plan serves as a community’s roadmap that will take us from where we are today to where we want to go in the coming years.  The foundations of strategic planning are the statements we make that describe WHO we are, WHERE we want to go, and HOW we will strive for our goals and MEASURE success over time. 

Establishing a process that ensures broad community input is essential to the credibility of a strategic plan and its success. Developed in concert with its stakeholders, a strategic plan helps city leaders allocate resources to the programs that matter most to a community. A strategic plan is a living document; it undergoes periodic review and adjustment to reflect progress towards achievement of goals or changes in the environment.    

Why Should Edmonds Develop a Strategic Plan?

Having an adopted strategic plan is as important to a community’s future as architectural plans are to any building. Local economies are always changing and Edmonds is no exception.

A strategic plan is a crucial tool for city decision-makers. It can help formulate decisions by establishing a framework for setting priorities and educating leadership about the citizens’ priorities for public and private funding. A strategic plan helps inform a mayor and city council about city services, programs, and infrastructure that matter most to the citizens and which should receive paramount attention in budgets.

The financial stability of the City of Edmonds has been deteriorating for the past several years. Current projections show that annual revenues will fall below expenses within the next couple of years. A strategic plan is especially important in an era when government is faced with the challenge of doing more with less and allocating tax dollars where they are most needed.

The Edmonds Economic Development Commission and Economic Development Department communicated with several cities that have developed strategic plans to learn about their experiences with their plans and how functional they are. We learned that as the economic situation has become increasingly challenging, cities have used their plans more and more. Several cities also stated that they have found that the development of a strategic plan has succeeded in bringing various stakeholders together, thereby facilitating a greater sense of community and reducing tensions among competing interests with the recognition that everyone is working toward the common goal of creating the best city possible. Strategic plans have proved their value.

Strategic Planning Process

The process of developing a strategic plan is key to ensuring that the results are both useful to its implementers and supported by its stakeholders. While funding often determines how many of the tools available to the planner are used to solicit community opinions, there are many approaches to gathering opinions that assure the process is inclusive even at moderate levels of funding.

The EDC has developed an outline that provides an idea of the steps taken in the process of developing a strategic plan and the many tools available. Most importantly, the strategic planning process involves the ENTIRE Edmonds community! Only in this way can it provide the necessary consensus for success. The costs to develop a citywide plan range from $60,000 to $200,000, and a plan around $100,000 would likely meet Edmonds’ needs.

The full commission meets the third Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the City Hall Brackett Room. The public is invited. If you want to attend a subcommittee meeting, contact me or Stephen Clifton, Community Services/Economic Development Director at the City.

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