February 26, 2016
Skagit County Economic Development Strategic Plan
EDASC, on behalf of Skagit County and all its residents, will conduct a professional, pro-active economic development program targeted at attracting new, family-wage, primary industry* jobs through business recruitment, retention and expansion, and tourism promotion. In addition, EDASC will work in collaboration with our public and private sector partners to foster a supportive, sustainable and healthy environment for all Skagit businesses and workers. Together we will build capacity, amenities and assets to make Skagit County a sought-after destination in the Pacific Northwest, not only because we preserve our natural beauty and resources, but also because we promote prosperity for our businesses and workforce.
*“Primary industry” refers to a company that exports a product or service outside of Skagit County, thereby generating new income within the County from outside in the form of revenues and (typically higher) wages.
Develop a business retention and expansion (BRE) program to serve existing Skagit businesses of all sizes, surveying and addressing their needs, gaining business leads and helping develop business growth.
- Survey existing businesses with roughly 10 or more employees (or perhaps fewer depending on market sector) to determine their needs, obstacles, plans, and networks (i.e., to generate recruitment prospects that would benefit the companies).
- Visit with companies regularly to provide support and connection with appropriate resources (e.g., export promotion, classes and seminars, networking, other non-profits that provide assistance, local, state and federal agency assistance).
- Work to maintain critical mass for identified key sectors to ensure continued market viability (agriculture, advanced manufacturing, resource-based industries).
- Serve as a resource and facilitator for businesses to interact with governments and agencies to resolve issues efficiently.
Create a professional, pro-active business recruitment program for Skagit County using the established business clusters, marketing the County’s assets domestically and internationally to targeted prospects developed through research and networking.
- Revamp website to launch an effective site search function and library with data layers useful to prospects and the local community.
- Invite each of the localities, Ports and other related agencies to submit their individual economic development plans to EDASC for inclusion on the website, and convene a group annually at least to review, discuss and improve collaboration on individual and collective goals under the auspices of EDASC’s county-wide economic development strategic plan.
- Launch a branded marketing program serving all of Skagit County and its cities, towns and ports.
- Identify and improve the availability of parcels and buildings for marketing, including adaptive reuse and brownfields redevelopment.
- Generate a program to seek out opportunities that fit Skagit County generally and its constituent cities, towns and ports individually, according to their plans and assets.
- Serve as a convener and facilitator for issues that affect Skagit County and the region, particularly as they impact the economy and the ability to retain and attract businesses and workers. Improve collaboration with all partners across the County: the County, cities and towns, ports, business and industry, agriculture, labor, non-profits, education, transportation, workforce, health care and others.
- Work to ensure that the entire County has access to fiber for ease of commerce and communication.
- Convene all partners, public and private, to pass the Tourism Promotion Area (TPA) and develop an house the County’s tourism attraction program serving all communities and sites.
Serve as an active promoter for Skagit County’s economy, educating and speaking on issues that affect the County and its businesses and workers, and contributing to the development of policies improving opportunities for all, with special focus on our targeted industry sectors and agriculture/natural resources.
- Promote identification of available properties and, by extension, properties for conservation, so prospects and residents alike can benefit
- Develop ongoing relationships with higher education in the region to collaborate in the areas of workforce development, research and commercialization, international business and strategies to enhance specific business sectors.
- Highlight and provide data on the economic implications of issues such as housing shortages, educational needs, healthy communities, and others that impact the County’s well-being, in collaboration with appropriate partners.
- Work towards a more equitable Skagit County in collaboration with involved agencies and groups, where all have the opportunity to succeed and lead a healthy, productive life.
In order to accomplish these agreed county-wide goals, EDASC must:
- Re-focus to undertake activities unique to economic development organizations, making sure to avoid duplication of effort and the vacuums that duplication creates.
- Operate more as an “Alliance” than an “Association” – identifying the highest values of collaboration and progress and serving as the economic development umbrella for all of Skagit County and its constituents.
- Employ nationwide best practices in economic development, both programmatic and operational.
- Articulate the value proposition that will garner increased investment (rather than relying heavily on membership and fundraising asks and events) from the public and particularly private sectors to fund economic development activities in a way that is long-term and sustainable.
- Make clear the value proposition of the economic development efforts under EDASC’s umbrella not only to the investors but also to the community.
- Focus on existing Skagit business and also companies outside Washington and even perhaps outside the US (Canada first) that would add to and diversify our economy.
- Operate at the highest levels of professionalism and integrity, becoming an employer of choice to attract the best and brightest talent dedicated to the advancement of Skagit County.
- Provide opportunities for County residents to network, learn and celebrate.