EDASC takes holistic approach to capacity building

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

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Puja Sharma, co-owner of Taste of India in downtown Mount Vernon, said she likely wouldn’t have been able to reopen her business after it burned down in 2015 if not for the help of the Small Business Development Center at EDASC.

“Our advisor helped with everything,” Sharma said. “Three years later, we are more successful than we thought possible.”

Capacity building is anything EDASC can do to make the community stronger and more prosperous. Our small-business development services like the one Sharma used are one piece of the pie, and can also be classified as part of business expansion and retention.

EDASC takes a holistic approach to capacity building, which is a nontraditional approach for economic development organizations. This includes looking at education systems, government, childcare, inclusion and equity and more.

EDASC CEO John Sternlicht said this approach not only fosters a healthier community, but also creates a more resilient one during economic downturns.

One example of this holistic approach is EDASC’s involvement in improving access to childcare and early learning services, topics most people don’t associate with economic development.

“If you are at work and you are wondering about who is going to take care of your baby, you aren’t as focused on your job,” Sternlicht said. “It’s an issue that affects everyone and therefore an economic development issue.”

Capacity building can be broken into two categories: human infrastructure and physical infrastructure. Human infrastructure includes programs that help people, thus contributing to a stronger workforce.

EDASC has its own ongoing services that fall under this category. Leadership Skagit is a civic leadership training program for emerging and current leaders. It has produced over 500 graduates since its inception in 2004, creating a network of servant leaders who are informed, inclusive and connected.

EDASC’s Latino Business Retention and Expansion program is another ongoing program providing support for Latino entrepreneurs and business owners looking to start or expand businesses. NextExec is a monthly professional development program providing leadership and management curriculum, workshops and mentoring. The Small Business Development Center provides free business advising to small-business owners.

We also work with other local organizations to tackle issues, including workforce development, STEM initiatives, childcare and early learning, and more.

The second category, physical infrastructure, includes ensuring the proper infrastructure is available for businesses, workers, and community members to thrive. Opportunity zones — developable land with heavy tax breaks — falls under this category. So does the expansion of broadband, which will serve as a big boost to businesses and allow more businesses to exist in the eastern portion of the county.

Workforce housing also falls under this category.

In the end, EDASC’s approach to capacity building ensures Skagit County is better equipped for the future.

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