In an effort to bring local leaders together to brainstorm for a better community, the North Olympic Peninsula Resource Conservation & Development, a federally funded 501(c)3 nonprofit agency under the Economic Development Administration as part of the Department of Commerce, held an economic development summit on Sept. 12 in the Sequim Transit Center.
Similar to a recent meeting about innovation with economic development held by Congressman Derek Kilmer in August in Sequim, the conservation and development group, led by Kate Dean, regional director, brought together leaders of local agencies from Clallam and Jefferson counties to discuss strengths and weaknesses of local economic development.
Their input goes into a plan for the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, CEDS, that’s required to be reviewed every five years.
Participants for Clallam’s event included representatives from private business, political offices, government agencies and education.
They were asked to meet in groups and perform a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats, also known as a SWOT analysis, with group members coming to a consensus on some points.
For Clallam’s strengths, groups agreed upon the area’s quality of life high, cost of living relative to Puget Sound being favorable and its geographic diversity.
Groups found some of the weaknesses and threats cross paths such as school infrastructure affecting education and turning away professionals. Other perceived weaknesses included a lack of upward mobility, a cost of living gap, lack of transportation options, high cost of shipping and more.
Sequim Schools Superintendent Gary Neal said it’s difficult to retain some teachers when they can ride a ferry and make $30,000 more across the water.
One group felt there is a difficulty to access resources to finance small businesses. However, Nathan West, director of community and economic development for the City of Port Angeles, said he feels there are a lot of resources available locally such a Craft3, a national development fund, and advantages through the USDA for businesses.
Brian Kuh, deputy director of Jefferson County Economic Development Council, said business start-up “boils down to perceived resilience in the area … and the continued challenge is awareness of resources.”
A few of the other weaknesses/threats groups saw to businesses include drug and alcohol addictions and businesses not being accommodating to the working class and closing earlier and/or not being open weekends.
Caleb Anderson, vice-president of Anderson Homes, said it drives him nuts not to have stores open in the evening or weekends especially after living in Seattle.
“They need to have employees they say you’re working the weekend,” he said.
For opportunities in the area, group members said bonds for schools and hospitals are important, as are the vacant or undeveloped commercial-based properties, public-private partnerships and harbor traffic/waterfront and manufacturing development.
Kuh said Clallam and Jefferson counties continue to add jobs over the years as population grows, too.
He said the total income is on the rise in the counties, too, including $2.8 billion in Clallam County and $1.3 billion in Jefferson County, but surprising to him was the average earnings per job has gone down.
Kuh said looking at average earnings from 1970 at 2015 rates, the average job earned $43,000 in Clallam whereas in 2014, again at 2015 rates, earned about $39,000.
While the numbers don’t distinguish between part-time and full-time jobs, he said Jefferson County’s per job rate went down, too, from $43,000 to about $32,000 at the same times and rates.
“It’s a downward trajectory and a widening gap between the two counties,” he said.
Dean and other economic development leaders hold a similar event on Friday in Jefferson County to compile input for the mandated Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.
Kuh said both Clallam and Jefferson’s input will go directly into the draft.
“That makes it a living, breathing document,” Kuh said.
Some of the advantages for creating the 5-year-strategy, Dean said, includes bringing in funding, creating local buy-in and creating measurable goals.
Other attendees included Marc Abshire, executive director Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce; Connie Beauvais, Port of Port Angeles commissioner; Gerry Christensen, small business owner/investor; Wendy Clark-Getzin, general manager Clallam Transit; Neil Conklin, owner of Bella Italia; Randy Johnson, president Green Crow; Jennifer Linde, director of Operations & Finance Clallam EDC; Rosa McLeod, representative for Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office; Jim McEntire, board member of Clallam EDC; Ted Miller, deputy mayor of City of Sequim; Joe Irvin, City of Sequim assistant to the city manager; Judith Morris, representative for Congressman Derek Kilmer’s office; Clea Rome, county director WSU Clallam Extension office; Steve Shively with the Olympic Culinary Loop; Carolyn St. James with the Lower Elwha S’Klallam Tribe; and Jill teVelde, director of workforce education for Peninsula College.
For more information on the report, visit www.noprcd.org or call 360-301-1750.