OFF the BEAT
ROBERT L. SPINKS, MA, MS
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: OMC Published on Wed, June 17, 2011 by Robert Spinks, MA, MS http://www.sequimgazette.com/spinks
Note: This is the fifth and final part of a series that has explored economic development efforts on the Olympic Peninsula.
and the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market to town, a commercial development that was set in motion nearly a decade ago.
This is the last column in a series that has provided a view of the economic development puzzle here on the Olympic Peninsula. In this series we have touched upon the Port of Port Angeles, the Clallam County Economic Development Council (EDC), the Peninsula Development District (PDD), the City of Sequim, the Jamestown Sâ€™Klallam Tribal Government, Olympic Medical Center, Peninsula College as well as the relationship that involves federal and state government officials.
There have also been retail losses to the community, the Big Lots store is gone as part of that companyâ€™s closure of 170 outlets nationwide in 2005. Small retailers continue to struggle as we see restaurants, specialty retailers and hobby/retirement types of businesses come and go from the local scenery.
There are of course private entities such as Battelle with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the 7 Cedars Casino and Resort development that is planned for steady growth to the east of Sequim. The recognition of Sequim as the retail trade center for Clallam County has drawn the expansion of Wal-Mart, the soon to open Ross Dress for Less,
The Brains of Economic Development In past articles it was clear to see how the EDC has served as the brains for local economic development efforts with the support and liaison of the PDD. Much of the heavy lifting in the way of business park creation has occurred because of the unique position that the Port of Port Angeles has under state law, giving the Port the tools to fund
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and develop business parks, shipping terminals and airport operations. The Olympic Peninsula with our remote location away from interstate highways, railroad access and limited air transport is a challenge for manufacturing operations to ever locate here in volume. Available land for such facilities is limited by current zoning or has little infrastructure in areas outside of a city. In recent years there has been growing talk about the development of tidal power generation. That research continues and is well suited for our region. Much of that work involves the resources of Battelle in Sequim, and the Public Utility District which is funding the installation of two demonstration water-tidal turbines near Whidbey Island next year. A Sequim City official complained to me about funding the EDC because as he said that Sequim has received little benefit from funding the EDC. This was an almost identical comment that has been mentioned by both elected and appointed Sequim City officials as I collected information for this series. This perception of misplaced value speaks to a weakness in grasping the successes our community has seen. It is also recognized by many government officials and businesses leaders that I talked with that partnerships and collaboration are the hallmarks of successful economic development efforts in the new millennium. Most agree that growing jobs that are above minimum wage fueled by a growing local economy is critical for the health of Sequim. But, there is a feeling in some circles that someone else should be paying for the work to make Sequim a business friendly environment or that Sequim should operate on their own agenda to the exclusion of other efforts. Mike McAleer, a local Realtor and retired US Army Colonel, (Field Artillery) has been active with the EDC for years. He has served in leadership positions with EDC (President, Treasurer or Vice President) since 1996 and was a member before that.
McAleer notes that the EDC budget has been reduced in recent years from $225,000 in 2008 to $180,000 in 2011, which Sequim contributes $5,000 or just 2.8% of the EDC’s budget. At the same time the work load increased last year because of a number of opportunities EDC needed to wrestle to the ground: expansion of Angeles Composites Technologies, Inc. (ACTI), a regional financial organization, and, of course, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) operated by Battelle in Sequim. A major portion of EDC staff time, as well as volunteer’s time, has been devoted to PNNL Battelle and their Renewable Energy project. The Energy Project will benefit Port Angeles, the Port, but especially Sequim. In recognition of that effort, one would expect that Sequim would be a major investor in the EDC, says McAleer. Perceptions are everything, especially in a small town that values thrifty spending. Sequim is not a rich community, though there are individuals who are well off living in the area. Federal records show 10% of families and 14% of the Sequim population were below the poverty line, including 20% of those under age 18 and 11% of those aged 65 or over. That means that Sequim is challenged with poverty, as invisible as it may be when you drive down Sequim Avenue. You and I are pounded with high gas prices, food prices, rises in utilities, and increased taxes such as those to support a new Transportation Benefit District (TBD), and other government costs are not decreasing. So growing a healthy local economy is important. Consultants and Dollars. Is Peninsula College the underused diamond in the rough? Isn’t a college a prime source to find consultants, researchers, survey makers, planners and visionaries? There’s an entire staff in our backyard. Yet, we continue to see city government consulting contracts and tax dollars float out of our county to companies in Portland and Kansas to name a few. Could fewer dollars have been spent for equal or superior results?
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Using local resources develops partnerships and sometimes unexpected opportunities. Investing in the EDC has benefitted not just the Sequim community but our entire county, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes with state and federal officials, many times with business leaders and always in bringing local leadership together. Being committed to using local resources should apply to local government just as much as we try to hammer home the idea of spending local first to our fellow citizens.
all contribute and all benefit, some might call this ‘Smart Leadership’. What kind of partner will Sequim be for the future? Will respect and personal values drive city government or will the concern be to make the next sound bite or photo opportunity. Time will tell what type of leadership and economic develop you will allow for our community.
Motivations for Partnership In writing about economic development over the past several weeks, the word partnership has crept up in most of my interviews with business leaders and government officials. Historically organizations are motivated to pursue partnerships, but it’s the motivation that often varies. Organizations seem to seek out relationships for two key reasons. One, they see the value of partnerships and collaborate to benefit the entire community. It’s embraced in their mission and vision, which the organization lives. Other partnerships and this is where leadership and character come into play are motivated on obtaining something from the other. We’ve all seen that kind of partnership at some point in our lives whether it’s in personal relationships, business operations or in government.
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 the Olympic Community Action Program (OlyCAP) and is a volunteer Manager at KSQM 91.5 FM. Reach him at Robert.Spinks@alumni.uc.edu .
Partnerships that last are those that are built on a strong foundation of trust and mutual respect where
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