County panel moves to tempt high-tech firms

  • MIKE BENBOW / Herald Writer
  • Friday, July 7, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News


Herald Writer

Economic development officials decided Friday to allocate as much as $3.5 million in public and private money during the next five years to lure high-tech firms to Snohomish County.

It’s a high-stakes gamble with a potential payoff of $2.7 billion and one the county can’t afford to pass up, said Deborah Knutson, chief executive of the Snohomish County Economic Development Council.

"We need to tell our story, especially when there are choices to be made," she said. "If we’re not on somebody’s radar screen, we won’t be a choice at all."

Knutson said King County has seen dramatic growth in high-tech firms in recent years, so much so that many companies are looking to relocate or to expand elsewhere.

She’d like Snohomish County to be that elsewhere.

"The target will be the high-tech jobs that we have far fewer of than King County," she said.

The plan approved Friday by the EDC board, a group of 40 people from private business, local governments and local educational institutions, calls for spending as much as $700,000 a year for the next five to aggressively pursue more higher-paying jobs in technology.

The money would be used in four key areas: bringing in new businesses, helping existing businesses to stay here and to expand, increasing marketing and worker training efforts, and improving the permit process and infrastructure such as power and fiber-optic cable.

Knutson said a consultant hired by EDC, R&ampM Resource Development of Denver, estimated the five-year initiative could create 4,000 new jobs with an annual wage of $38,000 to $45,000.

That’s important, she said, because the county’s median salary, once the highest in the state because of the Boeing Co., is now more than $12,000 behind King County’s.

Last year, the median pay for county workers here was $52,063, compared to $64,795 in King County. Median means half the workers make more and half were paid less.

The new jobs, the spinoff jobs they would create and other related economic activity could be worth some $2.7 billion, according to the consultant’s study. But the main focus is on better-paying jobs.

"Look at all the people (from the county) sitting on I-5 going south every day," Knutson said. "We’ve got the employees here already."

The project, while endorsed by the EDC board, rests solely on the agency’s ability to collect the money to pay for it. Public and private agencies pay about $300,000 a year now, and they’ll be asked to pay more, Knutson said.

But the EDC intends to contract with its Denver consultants to broaden greatly its base of contributors. "We can’t continue to go to the same group of investors who support everything in the county," she said. "There are growing numbers of high-tech companies in the county that need to participate because they will benefit from this as well."

While much of the money will go for additional employees who will be able to make more direct contacts to companies, a significant amount would also be used to tell the county’s story.

Knutson noted that Tacoma, which used public money to install a huge amount of fiber-optic cable needed by high-tech firms, is already promoting itself heavily.

"They’re trying to reap their investment back," she said. "Tacoma is the one that’s out there now. But we have a lot of fiber-optic opportunity here. Nobody knows about it because it was done with private money."

You can call Herald Writer Mike Benbow at 425-339-3459or send e-mail

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

President Joe Biden speaks at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro, N.C., on April 14, 2022. Biden plans to nominate Michael Barr  to be the Federal Reserve's vice chairman of supervision. The selection of Barr comes after Biden's first choice for the Fed post, Sarah Bloom Raskin, withdrew her nomination a month ago (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Washington Democrats voice support for Biden’s decision to drop out of presidential race

Some quickly endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris to replace him on the ballot.

Teenager in stable condition after Everett drive-by shooting Saturday

Major Crime Unit detectives were looking for two suspects believed to have shot the teenager in the 600 block of 124th Street SW.

Miners Complex tops 500 acres in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Nine lightning-caused fires force trail closures and warnings 21 miles east of Darrington. No homes are threatened.

FILE — President Joe Biden arrives for a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 3, 2024. Biden abandoned his campaign for a second term under intense pressure from fellow Democrats on Sunday, July 21, upending the race for the White House in a dramatic last-minute bid to find a new candidate who can stop former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Biden drops out of race, endorses vice president Kamala Harris

The president announced the decision on social media Sunday.

A Mukilteo firefighter waves out of a fire truck. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Fire Department)
Mukilteo levy lid lift will hike average tax bill about $180 more a year

The lift will fund six more workers, ambulances, equipment and medical supplies. Opponents call it unnecessary.

Doug Ewing looks out over a small section of the Snohomish River that he has been keeping clean for the last ten years on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Oscar Hoover Water Access Site in Snohomish, Washington. Ewing scours the shorelines and dives into the depths of the river in search of trash left by visitors, and has removed 59 truckloads of litter from the quarter-mile stretch over the past decade. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
If Snohomish River campaign passes, polluters could be held accountable

This summer, a committee spearheaded efforts to grant legal rights to the river. Leaders gathered 1,300 signatures.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.