A “Who’s Who” list of business, government and community leaders filled the Edmonds Library Plaza Room at lunch Friday to learn more about the Economic Alliance Snohomish County and its efforts to support existing businesses and expand economic development opportunities.
Representatives of the year-old Alliance have been traveling throughout Snohomish County to educate community leaders about their mission, which President and CEO Troy McClelland described as “advocacy, development and connection.” Friday’s meeting was co-sponsored by the Port of Edmonds, the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce and Swedish/Edmonds Hospital, and is part of new Mayor Dave Earling’s commitment to ensure that Edmonds becomes “a player in the long-term economic health of Snohomish County.”
The event drew a group of more than 60 people representing many sectors of Edmonds — from the Mayor and City Councilmembers and Port Commissioners to Swedish/Edmonds CEO David Jaffe, Arista Wine Cellars owner David Arista, Edmonds Center for the Arts Executive Director Joe Mclalwain and Chamber of Commerce President Ron Clyborne.
“We have a variety of businesses in our community,” Earling said in introducing the program. “And it’s not just big businesses that are here. We have a lot of people who own their own shop and maybe have only one employee, but they’re part of our economic engine here too and we want to be able to call attention to that.”
Long-time Edmonds resident Dick Van Hollebeke, who also chairs the Edmonds Community College Board, called the Alliance “the best news I’ve heard” since moving to Edmonds 35 years ago.”There’s more enthusiasm and can-do spirit in this room than I’ve seen in a long time. It’s like Edmonds is finally waking up to its potential, and its potential is going to be formed by collaborations.”
McClelland said the Economic Alliance — created through a merger of the South Snohomish and Greater Everett Chambers of Commerce and the Snohomish County Economic Development Council –was aimed at creating a regional Snohomish County organization “that was as concerned with the south as it was concerned with the north as it was concerned with the east.”
The goal is “to have partnerships throughout the whole county” that can influence everything from lobbying efforts at the state and federal level to business recruitment, McClelland said.
He cited as an example the efforts of the Alliance to ensure that the University of Washington Bothell campus got a third building. “That’s a big deal for the South County,” McClelland said. “Thirty percent of the students at (UW) Bothell come from Snohomish County; of that 30 percent, 25 percent…are south of 128th Street. They come from Edmonds, they come from Bothell, they come from everywhere south.”
McClelland noted that the Alliance focuses both on retaining existing businesses and recruiting new companies to the area. He described a business near Mountlake Terrace that was thinking about moving its company to Texas because it couldn’t find the training resources needed for its workers. The Alliance stepped in to assist and saved 1,500 jobs from moving out of the area, McClelland said.
He also mentioned the importance of protecting the county’s base business — aerospace. “The (Boeing) 777 X line alone is estimated to throw off $700 million in wages a year, $600 (million) of it spent in or around Snohomish County,” McClelland said. Snohomish County has real competition from other states that are attracting aerospace, including South Carolina and Texas, and to remain competitive the county must ensure “that we have a business environment where a company like Boeing would want to stay.”
Earling took the opportunity to remind his captive audience of the developments already in progress or on the horizon in Edmonds. For starters, Old Milltown has a new owner and is beginning to fill up with businesses. In addition, the Port of Edmonds “is very interested in redeveloping Harbor Square, and that has gigantic potential for our community,” Earling said. “With a railroad station just across the street, we know that if the Port puts together a project and the citizens approve it, we could have a mixed-use area down there that would be a real economic driver for our community.”
The Port proposal coupled with the potential sale of Antique Mall means it’s possible for Edmonds to begin to develop “the true potential of our harbor area,” Earling said.
“But the discussion can’t just be about downtown Edmonds,” the mayor added, mentioning recent development at Westgate and also a new long-range concept from the Behar Company to redevelop the corner of 220th Street Southwest and Highway 99. Called Edmonds Green, the mixed-use plan is described as a transit-oriented urban village where residents and business workers “will enjoy short swift commutes, and in many cases, will be able to live within walking distance from where they work.”
The 450,000-square-foot concept includes 237 residential units and 70,000 square feet of office area.
The area of 220th and Highway 99 is a hub for commuters traveling to major employers such as Swedish/Edmonds and Premera Blue Cross in Mountlake Terrace, and Earling said that as the City of Edmonds representative on the Sound Transit Board, he was able to ensure that Sound Transit will consider the possibility of including an additional stop at 220th Street for the light rail extension north to Lynnwood.