EDASC serves as go-to organization for companies looking to move to Skagit County

EDASC serves as go-to organization for companies looking to move to Skagit County Main Photo

4 May 2022


In addition to many smaller business additions, EDASC in 2021 supported the arrival of two new major employers, with Silfab Solar and Commercial Aircraft Interiors opening in Burlington.

Silfab Solar, a solar panel manufacturer headquartered in Canada, plans to employ about 400 at its new Burlington facility, doubling its manufacturing capacity over the existing plant in Bellingham.

Commercial Aircraft Interiors plans to employ about 80 at its plant, providing design, testing, certification, fabrication, and delivery of aircraft interior components.

These two businesses were perfect fits for Skagit County, falling under EDASC’s target industries, said EDASC CEO John Sternlicht. “Advanced Manufacturing is our biggest wealth producer in Skagit County,” Sternlicht said. “These sectors of clean energy and aerospace fit well within our business ecosystem, offering family-wage jobs and high multipliers for indirect local spending.”

EDASC is often the first point of contact for businesses like these exploring opportunities to invest and establish operations in Skagit County. Along with identifying potential locations, EDASC staff provide support identifying funding sources, navigating permitting and regulatory processes, making necessary and beneficial connections, and researching and facilitating support services.

EDASC works in close partnership with Skagit County, cities, towns, ports, local brokers, and the Washington State Department of Commerce.

At any given time, EDASC has about a dozen companies in the pipeline at various stages of interest. Most of those companies won’t end up here, but that’s expected. Business attraction is usually a marathon instead of a sprint.

“Business attraction requires a time investment,” Sternlicht said. “You may be forging a relationship with someone not even in the market to do anything. Some of those leads eventually turn into businesses landing here.”

There are many ways in which business attraction leads materialize. Sometimes companies — like canoe manufacturer Mocean Canoes in 2020— simply reach out directly to EDASC for site selection help. EDASC’s website plays a vital role in this stage, serving as a site selector’s first impression of the area while offering robust property search tools.

EDASC’s online property locator includes a map offering comprehensive census data, including information on labor force, wages, consumer spending, talent pool, housing prices, transportation, energy infrastructure, telecommunications, broadband availability, educational institutions and more.

Business attraction is also about finding the right businesses for the area. EDASC actively seeks appropriately sized marine, advanced manufacturing, and clean technology companies, as well as agriculture related opportunities because they fit the business landscape, create family wage jobs, and enhance our overall economy.

While new businesses could be seen as increased competition for existing ones, EDASC Economic Development & External Relations Manager Aaron Weinberg said that usually isn’t the case. “New businesses generally help existing ones by bringing in new suppliers, customers and other business opportunities,” he said.

In addition, bringing new blood into the local business landscape helps diversify the Skagit economy, making us more resilient in the face of inevitable downturns in a single industry sector.

New companies tend to fill gaps in local supply chains and bring new skilled workers and professionals to the area. All these benefits make business attraction a desirable and necessary staple of economic development.