When you hear the term Economic Development, what definition comes to mind? Many think of job creation, revenue generation, or increase in construction activity…but…these terms are more about economic growth than economic development. Economic development involves creating programs, policies or implementing actions intended to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community. Multiple approaches to economic development are often undertaken by communities as no single strategy, policy, program or project can assure success. Additionally, it is important to create a solid foundation for economic growth as success often does not occur overnight, but instead can take many years.
No single entity has the ability to undertake all actions necessary to create and/or maintain economic sustainability. This is done most effectively when individuals and organizations work collaboratively and form partnerships. It takes a community to build a village. Whether it’s the City, Chamber or Port of Edmonds working together on business development, recruitment and revitalization activities; the Economic Development Commission working on strategies to generate revenue and attract tourists; government agencies working on funding strategies; or individual community members and organizations with an interest in undertaking a community enhancement project, the main ingredients for success this past year have been collaboration and partnerships! The following are recent examples of such in addition to actions that lay a foundation for future economic growth in Edmonds.
• After an extensive public outreach process that involved interviews, surveys, workshops and an open house, the City Council approved the Edmonds Strategic Action Plan. The plan is intended to serve as the community’s roadmap by helping guide decisions regarding community priorities.
• Edmonds City staff and Economic Development Commission continued working with a team from the University of Washington to create special district plans for the Five Corners and Westgate commercial neighborhood centers. The goal is to create more vital and desirable centers for local residents and visitors, improve connectivity and unify the centers by creating a distinctive character for each.
• City Staff are exploring ways to improve development review operations and efficiencies. To further this goal, the City Council approved funding to re-structure and re-write the City’s development code.
• The Edmonds Chamber of Commerce held its second annual Business Expo in 2013. Sponsored in part by the City, Edmonds Community College Conference Center and Port of Edmonds, the Expo provides an opportunity for service businesses and the public to connect in person, network, and discuss service offerings in the area. Speaking of the Chamber, congratulations to one of the fastest growing Chambers in the State; membership has grown by over 100 members over the past year and now stands at 504.
• The City’s health care community continues to grow. Swedish Edmonds added a new Oncology Center and is currently constructing a new parking garage. A 77,000-square-foot expansion of the main hospital will include a new emergency care center which is anticipated to be completed in 2015. Thank you Swedish Medical Center for working with the City and speaking to various community groups during the planning phase.
• Congratulations to the Port of Edmonds for securing a long term lease with Jacobsen Marine. A long-time icon of Ballard, and more recently West Seattle, Jacobsen Marine will provide considerable improvements in the delivery of complete marine services in southwest Snohomish County.
• City staff and representatives of the Edmonds Economic Development Commission and Technology Advisory Committee continue to explore ways to expand usage of the City’s existing fiber optic network. The City will soon test WiFi for use by the general public.
• Economic Development Department staff have improved outreach to the business community and continue to promote Edmonds in order to attract tourists and businesses.
• The City Council approved revisions to the City Code to allow public markets in certain commercial zones any time of the year. This allowed the opening of a new Wednesday evening food and produce only market last summer and perhaps, someday, a year-round market.
• The City Council approved the creation of a Downtown Business Improvement District (BID). The BID is a locally funded mechanism whereby businesses are assessed to help fund BID sponsored/supported activities for the mutual benefit of downtown businesses.
• Designing of grant funded directional or “wayfinding” signage has been completed and fabrication/installation is to take place this year. The purpose is to help direct visitors to commercial areas, special event venues and public parking areas.
• The grant funded Highway 99 Enhancement Project was completed in 2013. The International District’s identity has been strengthened by the installation of enhanced pedestrian level lighting, district identification signage on custom light poles, and addition of a solar lit sculptural piece on a resurfaced island at 76th as part of the gateway. Additional funding has been secured to help install new lighting fixtures and banners along Highway 99 near the health care district.
Also playing a vital role in economic development is the construction and maintenance of the City’s infrastructure and community amenities such as roadways, parks and open spaces. Watch for future articles by the City’s Public Works and Parks and Recreation Directors which will highlight some of the exciting projects that are planned or have recently been completed.
— By Stephen Clifton
Community Services/Economic Development Director