OFF the BEAT ROBERT L. SPINKS , MA, MS
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: A PLAN FOR SEQUIM? Published on Wed, May 18, 2011 by Robert Spinks, MA, MS http://www.sequimgazette.com/spinks
Note: This is the third of a multi-part series that examines economic development efforts on the Olympic Peninsula.
friendly attitude at City Hall a decade ago. That same business community does not universally rate Sequim as being business friendly today.
You may have felt the ground move, or at least shift in recent years. Not the physical ground, but the shifting of the economic epicenter in Clallam County.
Economic development comes in many forms, some significant like manufacturing, which Port Angeles has clearly taken the lead in. Others include the economic powerhouse of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. Or in more unique, but helpful ways such as the bump in Forks tourism due to its connection to the ‘Twilight’ vampire series.
The City of Sequim is reaping the benefit of having a growing retail community. Sales tax revenues to Sequim hit over $2 million last year, which is nearly 72% of the $2.77 million in sales tax revenue generated by the City of Port Angeles.
Have there Been any Successes in Local Economic Development?
Sequim has been a retirement community, with a sprinkling of tourism, a vibrant medical center and a continuing position as the retail trade center for the two county area.
Clallam County Economic Development Council (EDC) Executive Director Linda Rotmark said that she and her two staff haven’t been busier.
The relative health of the retail community and city sales tax revenue was set in place by a business
The EDC has marketed our area since 1982. That also means that the EDC has been developing
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contacts in the state and national business arena as well as working with the Governor, state legislators, federal officials and our congressional delegation for nearly three decades. Those contacts are invaluable and long standing relationships take time to cultivate. The EDC connects business owners and entrepreneurs to resources. EDC provides building or lease site identification and information; job training information; intergovernmental coordination for large complex projects; access to financing and assistance with securing incentives. However, the City of Sequim reduced its funding to support EDC shortly after the arrival of new Sequim City Manager Steve Burkett. In 2010, the City of Sequim slashed its funding to the EDC by over 70% and that reduced funding continues this year at just $5,000 annually. Tribal Successes: The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is a blended tribal community that encompasses Sequim. The Tribe is not one of the largest tribal nations in the United States with 375 enrolled members, but it has become known as one of the best managed. Under the leadership of Ron Allen, tribal chairman and CEO, the tribe has evolved its governance, conservation of natural resources, and has developed a series of profitable businesses including the 7 Cedars Casino, Cedars at Dungeness golf course, Jamestown Clinic as well as ownership of construction and medical supply companies. Recently, Allen shared that the Tribe has developed their branding and will continue to grow in the gaming and hospitality industries. A $15 million remodel and expansion of the casino’s bingo hall is in-progress and soon to follow will be a $10 million parking structure, which must be completed before the planned construction of a convention center and 4-star designation resort. The Tribe is now one of the largest employers in Clallam County and is a true economic driver in the Sequim area.
While the Tribe has identified its brand and marketing strategy in a big way, Sequim has not. Sequim unlike Port Townsend has not capitalized substantially upon its proximity to the Casino, the Olympic National Park, nor the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Since the idea for a new city hall was raised in 1972, the City of Sequim has yet to locate, complete funding or break ground on a new city hall complex. Positioning such a complex as a gateway into the community has been recommended by some. Instead, current work has focused on investigating land purchases around the existing facility. The consulting firm of Fehr & Peers, well known nationally for planning and transportation issues drafted the City of Sequim’s Downtown Plan, which was presented to the City Council in March. The plan identified three sites in the core area suggesting mixed commercial and residential uses and conversion of the current Bank of America building into a cinema. There is a cinema 6-plex already sited near East Washington and Rhoedeffer Road. If construction there stalled and the economics don’t support that site’s construction, will there be an investor ready to make the $6 million investment that Fehr & Peers estimates at the downtown site? The same report suggests a roundabout at Sequim and Washington with a water fountain feature. During this year’s City Council retreat, the idea of including a movie theater into a new city hall building made it on the list of the retreat report. A conference center has since been discussed by some officials. Does any of this sound like a coordinated plan to truly brand and market the community to be a destination location for visitors? Or is it a plan to literally plug the downtown core with even worse traffic than we have today?
According to Allen, the highlights of Sequim can be seen quickly, yet a visitor to Port Townsend can Page2 of 3
spend considerable time exploring that community. You have to offer more to attract a destination vacationer than what is available today in Sequim. Allen stressed that the Tribe is looking for partnership opportunities, but that the community has to build upon its own strengths first. Local Government can Streamline for Customer Service Over and over during interviews for this series of article, business interests, government officials and elected officials pointed at the need for government to become more customer friendly. Uniformly they echoed a feeling that government agencies have to be streamlined to quickly and effectively process and move projects through regulatory review with due diligence and with a defined schedule that doesnâ€™t drag out over months or years. Delays translate into unacceptable and inflated costs for a business; which can drive business and economic development away.
focus on as he rebuilds a decimated Planning Department. Sequim Mayor Ken Hays even recognizes the value of infrastructure and community livability and has publically stated that if you build an attractive community; people, businesses and development will follow. According to the local business community, they are waiting to see leadership that makes sense to follow.
Robert Spinks is former Sequim chief of police and Interim City Manager. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Sequim Senior Activity Center and is a volunteer Manager at KSQM 91.5 FM. Reach him at Robert.Spinks@alumni.uc.edu .
Unresponsive government is a hurdle that can kill economic recovery, especially when other areas of the country are focusing on one-stop government shopping. As a simple example, many cities and counties have evolved their multiple departments of public works, planning and utilities into unified Community Development Departments to speed customer service across the board. Newly hired Sequim City Planning Director Christopher Hugo promotes simplicity. He has pointed to his success in streamlining the permitting process in Bremerton when he was the community development director there as a major success. Bringing stability and simplicity to both the Sequim Public Works and Planning Departments is long overdue. Both Departments have been victims of staff retirements, reorganizations, interim directors, consultants and terminations over the past several years. Zoning is another hurdle facing Sequim. Current city zoning is described as being â€œrestrictive and confusingâ€? by business and development interests. That may be another item on the list for Hugo to Page3 of 3
Note: This is the third of a multi-part series that examines economic development efforts on the Olympic Peninsula. You may have felt the g...