People and Communities on the Move

Monday, July 17, 2017

Main News Photo

Across the country there has been a shift towards people leaving the big cities and congestion for more peaceful, quiet and rural areas. Thanks to the ready availability of high-speed internet, easy transportation and ample job opportunities, Skagit County has become a serious contender for businesses and families wishing to live the good life in Washington State.

Some of this growth has also been due to Baby Boomers looking to retire somewhere close to family and friends but more affordable than where they were living and working. This is one reason that western Washington has continued to grow. Since boomers also move to areas with more assets and disposable income, they give an excellent boost to any economy and the opportunities for businesses to sprout up to service their increasing needs. Skagit County is becoming an ideal destination for those looking for a quieter life somewhere beautiful, and our economy will continue to benefit from this.

Opportunity is Here

In Skagit County, we have the opportunity to build on our success and see sustainable growth using strategies that have been implemented in other towns, counties and regions. In the Pacific Northwest, Bend, Oregon is one example of community growth and sustainability, even when economic trends are less than favorable.

When the timber industry was heavily reduced due to depleted natural resources, Bend and Deschutes County experienced a recession and loss of population. The Economic Development for Central Oregon, a non-profit entity, went to work to rebuild the economy by attracting businesses in other industries. They had success in the aviation industry and were also able to attract people who were looking for a lower cost of living than they could find in larger cities like Portland, combined with the scenic beauty of the Pacific Northwest. This resulted in an annual growth rate of 6 percent.

To manage this growth, they created the Central Bend Development Area Plan to develop 236 acres into a central business district with areas for residential homes, commercial and industrial development adjoining it. Their goal was to create a beautiful and thriving downtown area with access to the river, improve overall quality of life, and both maintain and enhance cultural resources. As part of their efforts, an environmental cleanup had to be done of an abandoned mill site on the riverfront. The developer agreed to clean it up after remediation had been completed and the result is the Old Mill District, employing over 2,000 people.

Bend struggled again during the recent recession, but again made a rebound by focusing on recruiting and supporting entrepreneurs. They provided local loans and financing to make it easier for those looking to start a business or expand in Bend. They also hosted the Bend Venture Conference and “pub talks” where entrepreneurs and investors could connect. This has helped to both stabilize and grow the community.

Skagit County is Ready

Skagit County has similar benefits to Bend with a lower cost of living, but close proximity to larger metropolitan areas. Skagit County also has abundant natural resources and a beautiful landscape that makes it possible to attract those looking to live somewhere more peaceful.

Communities in Skagit County are embracing sustainable growth in many ways, such as investing in our downtown areas, creating sustainable and comprehensive development plans, and promoting innovation and entrepreneurism. Learn more about local business successes on our Success Stories page.


Category: Economic Development