EDASC fosters healthier, more resilient community through capacity building.

EDASC fosters healthier, more resilient community through capacity building. Main Photo

4 May 2022

News, Capacity Building

To have a healthy and stable economy, a community must have enough residences to prevent housing prices from escalating out of reach, a current problem of Skagit County and the surrounding region.

EDASC in 2021 began facilitating a concerted countywide effort to address this complex issue through the Skagit Housing Consortium, formed through a collaborative effort among government, nonprofit and business leaders to help our community address housing availability and affordability. The consortium, consisting of dozens of broad-based Skagit residents interested in solving the housing dilemma constructively, is working toward independent nonprofit status in 2022.

This work is one facet of capacity building, which involves actions EDASC can undertake or support to make the community stronger and more prosperous.

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

This approach fosters a healthier community and 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 do not associate with economic development. A parent worried about who is going to take care of their child cannot be as focused at work. It’s an issue that affects everyone and is therefore an economic development issue. Therefore, a proposal to address childcare access was heavily featured in EDASC’s Skagit County Economic Recovery Plan.

One new example of EDASC’s capacity building work includes the establishment of Skagit County’s long-awaited Skagit Tourism Bureau, a new organization formed to promote Skagit County worldwide as a travel destination. The move will help bring visitors from all over the world to enjoy Skagit County, thereby bringing more spending and tax dollars into the county. EDASC is fostering the new organization until Q2 of 2022.

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, for instance, is a civic leadership training program for emerging and current leaders. It has produced over 550 graduates since 2004, creating a network of servant leaders who are informed, inclusive and connected.

EDASC is also involved in workforce and human development. EDASC and its partners such as Skagit Valley College, the Northwest Workforce Council, WorkSource, the Northwest Career and Technical Academy, and nthe Center of Excellence for Marine Manufacturing and Technology work together to proactively solve workforce shortages, often before they occur. In addition, EDASC provides strong partnership and support for early learning, Skagit STEM, apprenticeship opportunities, and more to meet the demand of all employees and businesses.

The second category, physical infrastructure, ensures the proper infrastructure is available for businesses, workers, and community members to thrive. Opportunity Zones – developable land with heavy tax breaks – fall under this category. So does the expansion of broadband, which will serve as a big boost to businesses, especially those in east county. Housing availability and affordability also fall under this category. Since physical infrastructure requires long term planning, funding, and patience, EDASC works with local governments to project needs expressed by businesses and residents and explore methods to meet those needs, particularly with reference to developing infrastructure for properties suitable for business development.

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