EASC reaches out across Snohomish County

  • By John Wolcott HBJ Freelance Writer
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2012 3:15pm

ARLINGTON — Economic Alliance Snohomish County is expanding its presence throughout the county through a series of new economic presentations to area Chambers of Commerce, with the Arlington Smokey Point Chamber being among the first.

CEO Troy McClelland’s presentation in Arlington April 16 focused on the importance of being united as an economic group and competing for new business in an arena where today’s competitors include other cities, counties, states and countries.

“Spokane, Grays Harbor and other areas are putting together economic development efforts that 10 years from now will look like overnight successes,” McClelland told chamber members at their membership meeting at the Medallion Hotel at Smokey Point.

In Spokane, he said, the region’s priorities include the Riverpoint Campus development with new buildings housing Eastern Washington University, Washington State University Spokane and Innovate Washington, a new organization dedicated to fostering business and technology development.

Plus, the city’s business community has a multiyear plan for developing medical research facilities, recreating the city’s north corridor and promoting new business development, he said.

“We’re competing with Spokane, Tri-Cities and Vancouver, Wash., yet we haven’t even been included in their conversations,” he said. “Last November, Rick Cooper (EASC’s board chair and CEO of The Everett Clinic) brought together business and education leaders from all over the county to discuss competition and economic development.”

That’s exactly the focus of the EASC, he said, to bond with a variety of groups and begin to think differently about business development and retention.

“The EASC is not a chamber,” McClelland said. “It was formed by the merger of the county’s Economic Development Council and the Great Everett Area and South Snohomish County Chambers of Commerce, creating a new organization that partners with chambers in the county but focuses on being the voice for county-wide economic development.”

Over the last decade, he said, the new view of economic development is that it must involve regional alignments of groups, businesses and people “or they will be left behind, literally. Arlington and Marysville, for instance, must learn what their priorities are and the EASC needs to be aligned with them to help.”

He said EASC “advances commerce and community development through inclusive advocacy, services and resources, working together with local people on regulation issues and mission statements.”

At a recent regional business connection event, he said, there were 280 people attending “to see what they all had in common, focusing on advocacy for such things as education programs, aerospace, life sciences and electronics manufacturing.”

McClelland described how an estimated 6,232 jobs were created in the county between 2006 and 2010, along with 5,030 indirect jobs associated with aerospace, life sciences and electronics manufacturing. Combined, those 11,262 jobs added $777 million to county payrolls, with an estimated $672 million going to consumer expenditures.

Sometimes, businesses don’t realize all of the county’s resources and attributes, he said.

“One Snohomish County business told me they were moving to Salt Lake City, so I talked to them about it,” McClelland said. “I was able to provide help for them, information they didn’t know existed about workforce needs and business support, and they decided to stay. That’s who we are at EASC.”

He said EASC also has taken a leadership role in aerospace competitiveness issues, such as increased training and education opportunities, improved logistics and infrastructure, as well as fostering industry diversity and marketing the region to attract new business.

“Regional competitiveness is the name of the game and that includes intellectual capital as well as infrastructure,” he said. “Businesses want to be confident when they invest in their communities, but communities also need to invest in their businesses.”

He said Snohomish County has 160 aerospace industry manufacturers that need community support, along with all of the county’s other businesses.

“Besides supporting our existing businesses we have been able to recruit four new companies to the county last year and two more this year so far,” he said. “What they wanted to know was how we can help their business succeed.

“Locally, we’re interested in things like what’s it take in Arlington for the airport to continue to be a major economic force. We want to help with business and industrial advocacy, as well as working as a close partner with chambers of commerce for the betterment of their communities.”

He also introduced EASC’s director of community and small business development, Jean Hales. He said EASC recognizes that economic development is dependent on community support and business development for companies of all sizes.

Shannon Affholter, EASC’s vice president for business and economic development, said the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce presentation is part of EASC’s outreach campaign to communities, chambers and economic development groups throughout Snohomish County. Earlier, EASC members meet in smaller groups with mayors and city staffs around the area.

“Troy and I have many more of these presentations planned, not only with chambers of commerce but also with Rotary clubs and other community groups to tell people about the EASC’s goals and vision,” Affholter said. “There’s a real need to reach out to these folks and Jean Hales (the former CEO of the South Snohomish County Chamber of Commerce) is responsible for rekindling those relationships with the EASC throughout the county.”

The visits are giving EASC staff information about activities, resources and local assets helpful for economic development. He said EASC also is starting to build an economic development task force with tourism organizations.

“Our outreach program also includes roundtable gatherings, such as the one we held with the mayor of Edmonds and Port of Edmonds officials,” Affholter said. “More of these are planned in Marysville, Arlington, Snohomish and Monroe.”

The roundtables bring together city officials, local business leaders and stakeholders, he said, “to have a conversation about what’s taking place in economic development in their areas, to discuss the role of the EASC and to hear about local programs, issues, transportation problems and business regulations that impact economic development.”

EASC annual meeting May 16

Economic Alliance Snohomish County will hold its inaugural annual meeting at 11:30 a.m. May 16 at the Lynnwood Convention Center. Admission is $50. Register by May 2 by calling 425-743-4567 or go to www.economicalliancesc.org.