New economic development captain sees Everett as a winner

Former Husky Dan Eernisee thinks city has been well nurtured, like a garden.

By Tom Hoban / Special to The Herald

My wife and I needed to vacate our house for a month during a summer remodel so we hit the road to visit her childhood best friend in remote Montana, enjoyed Lake Chelan for a stretch and hiked around Yellowstone for the first time.

I also used the time to take a sabbatical from mainstream news and social media, reintroducing only three subscription news services upon our return, including The Herald. That process is now going to be a healthy annual ritual for me for a lot of reasons.

One piece of news I missed was the hiring of Everett’s new Economic Development Director, Dan Eernisee. By the time I’d plugged back in, he’d already met with his newly formed Economic Development Council, was digging into an effort to respond to an NBA G-League franchise interest in Everett and was taking two companies through downtown as they looked for a new place to move their headquarters.

A former real estate developer, business owner, pastor and College Football Hall of Fame scholar-athlete inductee, Eernissee brings a refreshingly broad private-sector background to the position at just the right time. His most recent stint as economic development manager for the city of Shoreline gave him good public-sector experience to pair with it.

He was captain of his 1984 University of Washington football team and sees similarities between Everett and that Orange Bowl-winning year. “Before our first game that year,” he recalls, “the team leaders set an audacious goal to win the national title. To my knowledge, no Husky team had ever dreamed beyond the Rose Bowl and that vision carried us to Miami where — all sensible people agree — we won the national championship.

“Everett is full of potential with tons of talent. It’s my job to set a vision to carry us beyond anything others expect and beyond anything we’ve imagined. I feel privileged to be here just like I felt privileged to be part of that great team.”

He was also attracted to the energy that Everett’s new mayor, Cassie Franklin, and her deputy mayor, Nick Harper, bring to the city. “We share a common philosophy that city government should be like a gardener who builds the health of the soil so that plants put in the ground can flourish.”

His success in Shoreline is tied to that gardener philosophy. “Too often, cities focus on one-time incentives to attract development or investment activity. The more effective tool is to work to improve economic activity through what I call strategic placemaking.” He explains, “Saving $1,000 on a permit is a one-time savings, but a sustained business or investment creates stable jobs and keeps giving year after year. That’s my approach”.

As for his new role specifically, Eernissee is optimistic, “Everett’s on the cusp right now, but economic development is about engagement and selling a story to the private sector. My job is to put together the game plan so everyone can see themselves in it and tell the same story.”

He thinks the timing is right for Everett, especially with commercial passenger service opening up at Paine Field, waterfront development and a downtown poised for growth.

“Those before me have done a great job of getting a foundation laid here in Everett and I’m joining many who are already doing amazing things,” he says. “I’m loving the people and the energy here already. I know it’s Everett’s time.”

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