Laying the groundwork for turning 2010 visions into reality

A number of Snohomish County organizations and institutions have teamed up to envision economic and academic life here in the year 2010 and to work to ensure that vision becomes reality.

The intent is provide a clear and comprehensive blueprint for jobs, education and economic development, according to the Economic Development Council of Snohomish County, which is coordinating the effort.

"The blueprint’s goal is to retain and attract jobs in eight key industry clusters that experts believe will help strengthen the Snohomish County economy in the years ahead," said Deborah Knutson, EDC president.

Those target areas include business services, biotechnology and biomedical devices, aerospace and avionics, tourism and the hospitality industry, education, construction, public services and health care.

Knutson said the plan is to analyze how to attract and keep jobs in those areas and to ensure students receive the necessary training to be successful in them.

Organizations and institutions collaborating on the blueprint include: Snohomish County government, the county Workforce Development Council, the EDC, Cascadia, Edmonds and Everett community colleges, the county’s school districts, Central Washington University, Western Washington University and the University of Washington.

Among the group’s first steps will be a thorough analysis of the local labor market.

Rin Causey, president of the workforce council, said the project should help the county make intelligent choices when it comes to setting training priorities.

"This sector-based analysis will help us determine what the job needs for the future will be in those areas, where skills gaps may exist or whether workforce gaps are approaching," he said.

Knutson said the collaborative effort should give the county a leg up in attracting scarce federal, state and local grants and ensure its well-positioned to take advantage of any opportunities.

Another important goal will be to work to have the county recognized as a distinct region for the purpose of state grants. Now the county is lumped in with King, Skagit and Whatcom counties, diluting its ability to get money for the most urgent needs here.

"It is time we are recognized as a single geographic unit through the lens of the state funding agencies," said Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel, noting the county has been among the fastest growing in the state for the past decade. "This unified approach locally will support and strengthen our work toward building a strong regional partnership."

Officials hope to complete the first phase of the study by next summer. The labor market analysis will then be used to frame much of the remaining work.

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