Guest Forum: EDC looking into Edmonds’ needs

  • Tue Sep 28th, 2010 10:58pm

By Frank Yamamoto Guest columnist

Facing a deteriorating revenue stream, the Edmonds City Council created the Economic Development Commission (EDC) in 2009, made up of 17 citizens all committed to improving the economy of the city.

In March, after receiving recommendations from the EDC, the City Council passed a Resolution identifying seven areas it committed to act during 2010. Of the seven the Commission took on four to address, forming subcommittees, while the remaining three (developing a vision for the city, supporting Harbor Square redevelopment and employing a full-time economic director) were designated to be worked on separately. The four crucial issues the EDC is addressing are: strategic planning, land use, technology and tourism.

As the Commission is committed to keeping the citizens of Edmonds updated on our activities and the recommendations we are developing, we want first to give a brief overview of the work in the four areas. In the coming weeks, we will describe in greater detail what has been accomplished and what remains to be done in each one of these elements that are so important to the economic future of Edmonds.

With strategic planning there were key questions to be answered:

1) Why should any city and Edmonds in particular develop a strategic plan. Is a plan useful?

2) What does a plan look like? What are its elements?

3) So now that we see how valuable a strategic plan could be to Edmonds, how does one go about developing one? Who is involved? Can we involve the entire community? How is information gathered?

4) Finally, how much would it cost us? What is the range of possible costs and what can we expect to get for our money at different levels of funding?

The strategic planning subcommittee has found answers to these questions, and in a future article we will share them with you. The EDC plans to offer a proposal for strategic planning in the city’s budget for 2011 and present the document to the City Council.

For land use the sub-committee has been working with the University of Washington’s Green Futures Lab to establish a team of students and instructors who will conduct a public design process for the Five Corners and Westgate Commercial Centers and make recommendations for how they could be redeveloped. In August the City Council approved $41,050 for the study to begin and $10,000 for a market study. Funds will come from reallocations of the city’s 2010 budget. The study will also involve the Planning Board and the Cascade Land Conservancy. The ultimate aim of this effort is to have these two sites ready for redevelopment, with plans and rezoning in place, when the economy turns around; money for redevelopment is easier to attract when uncertainty about these issues is removed.

Relating to Technology the Citizens Technology Advisory Committee (CTAC) has been working in this area for the past five years with some outstanding accomplishments, bringing the city to the doorstep of having a large, new source of revenue. In turn, the EDC has focused on making these accomplishments pay off as quickly as possible. In August the City Council approved proceeding with supplying its own excess of fiber optics to customers who are ready now to use it, thus gaining the experience needed to develop a full business plan. This is currently the best opportunity the city has to increase and diversify its revenue stream in the near future. The long-term potential is enormous.

The City of Edmonds and its merchants have promoted the hotels, shopping and restaurants of the city extensively. The EDC sub-committee on Tourism is delving into opportunities to create new tourist attractions in the area of sports and outdoor activities. The first step is to create an inventory of assets – athletic fields, parks, pools, courts, walking trails and bike trails. This inventory will be used to estimate the cost of upgrading specific facilities so they can be part of a new program and identify potential partnerships with the capability to hold events that attract wide regional participation. Typically, events of this sort include many participants who shop, dine and stay at local businesses.

The full commission meets the third Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Brackett Room at City Hall, 121 5th Ave. N. The public is invited. If you want to attend a subcommittee meeting, contact me or Stephen Clifton at the city.

Frank Yamamoto is chairman of the Economic Development Commission in Edmonds and owner of Running in Motion. He can be reached at frank@runninginmotion.com.