An Economy for All

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Main News Photo

This time of year calls for reflection.  Skagit County has historically been a place of great natural beauty and bountiful resources.  Acknowledging the natural forces that have shaped the landscape and the diversity of life that inhabits the valley informs who we are becoming.  How do we sustain quality of life and connection to our sense of place in times of growth and change?  Nurturing a healthy and equitable local economy is key.  This is the foundational concept of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) framework.  Using the BALLE framework key principles as a guide, we reflect on building on our Skagit County place-based potential to ensure health and quality of life long-term, together.

#1 Act local first

When possible, consider local sourcing.  Is there a local business that can meet a supply need?  Does your business prioritize local procurement?   Locally based small businesses generally hire people who live nearby and spend their wages in the local community.  Supporting local businesses increases the economic impact of dollars spent in Skagit County.  Acting local first acknowledges that by supporting each other, the region benefits through the recirculation of capital.

#2 Prioritize equity

Skagit County’s economy should work for everyone.  We all have agency as policy makers, businesses, organizations and community members to identify and assist those in the community who may need further support to reach their potential.  Through support services, skills training, mentorship and job placement, we can help everyone in the community develop capabilities.

#3 Regenerate soil and nature

Supporting the health and vitality of Skagit County requires tending the commons.  The land, air and waterways sustain life and livelihoods.  Quality of life depends upon their preservation and management.  We can do our part in Skagit County to lessen negative impacts and interact with the environment in which we live to encourage long-term health.

#4 Accelerate collaboration

Collaboration is key to creating an inclusive “we” economy in Skagit County.  Connecting people with resources, and resources with each other, is key to developing a true entrepreneurial infrastructure.  EDASC and the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) are at the forefront of providing assistance for new entrepreneurs, existing business owners, support organizations, and those seeking to invest in our region.  EDASC and the SBDC can provide advising and assistance with developing business or marketing strategy, financial projections, a business plan, provide key introductions, or convene topical groups.  Our role is to connect and collaborate with other support organizations and help business leaders to grow their organizations within an evolving economy.

#5 Ownership

Business structure is an important concept when considering equity.  When organizations are owned by employees, through Employee Stock Ownership Programs (ESOP) or worker-owned cooperatives, business ownership is spread throughout the community.  This provides the opportunity for employees to move beyond earning wages to gain equity ownership and often, decision making responsibility as employee owners.  Worker-ownership can be a component of building regional wealth and increasing stability.  The SBDC is actively collaborating with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center, assisting businesses in succession planning to worker ownership.  The two organizations also encourage the creation of new cooperatives, like Heartsong Health Cooperative (HHC), an organization that was featured in our last newsletter.

#6 Shift capital

Shifting capital is about investing locally.  Rather than investing exclusively in publicly traded companies, many community members are investing a portion of their portfolio in locally owned small businesses.  Local lending initiatives provide information to community members who are considering making a business loan to local businesses they care about.  Accessing startup capital from friends and neighbors is often the primary method that young entrepreneurs and startups use to get the capital they need to launch a business since they may not (yet) qualify for traditional bank loans.  The value of shifting capital cannot be overstated since it allows local businesses to enter the marketplace and gives the community agency in supporting conscious local businesses development.

#7 Co-create policy

Outcomes are more equitable when everyone has a seat at the table.  Community members' participation in the policy making process through the engagement of our elected representatives is imperative.  Whether attending town halls, writing letters or participating in community forums, we encourage you to get involved in Skagit County.

#8 Cultivate connection

By connecting through shared purpose, we can visualize together what Skagit wants to become, refine our roles in the larger community and design the steps necessary to bring that vision into being.  Cultivating connection is key.

Let’s create a “We” economy

Skagit County has the opportunity to do something incredible – create a true “we” economy.  This is a philosophy that supports everyone, encourages wealth building from within our community and encourages participation.  Building a collaborative culture together requires inclusion.  Please join us!

Category: Capacity Building, Small Business