EVERETT — The countywide economic development group asked the City of Everett for $300,000 to move into the heart of downtown and reestablish an Everett chamber of commerce.
Economic Alliance Snohomish County’s work includes creating a “highly skilled” workforce, adding jobs, increasing incomes, supporting entrepreneurship and startups, expanding businesses, keeping and recruiting companies companies here.
CEO and president Garry Clark said the organization’s current location south of the city limits wasn’t ideal for “rolling out the red carpet” when meeting with current and potential local business owners.
“This is our opportunity to come back home, so to speak,” Clark told the Everett City Council on Thursday. ”We realize that the core function, the spoke, the wheel, the hub is in Everett.”
But it’s not as simple as packing computers, desks and phones and moving several miles away. Breaking a long-term lease that the alliance signed just before the COVID-19 pandemic would be costly.
The group requested $300,000 of the city’s nearly $20.7 million federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to cover that cost, 2 years of rent in the new space and to help stand up the reformed chamber with a director. The alliance would try to sublet its current space at 808 134th St. SW.
Its new lease could be at the former Cascade Bank and Opus Bank site on the northwest corner of Colby and Hewitt avenues, at 2822 Colby Ave. The building’s 14,384 square feet would have space for business incubation, events, meetings and staff office.
The council didn’t vote Thursday but was expected to consider a resolution supporting the expense in the coming weeks.
Council President Brenda Stonecipher said she worried about the heavy financing from government already to the alliance and if small business owners would be interested and willing to join a new chamber.
There hasn’t been a chamber of commerce solely dedicated to Everett since 2011, when the former iteration disbanded and became part of Economic Alliance Snohomish County.
About 40% of the alliance’s revenue comes from government funding, Clark said. The rest is from businesses, namely large companies such as Boeing. But he and the staff are working to make that a larger share by adding business investment in their work, he said.
Economic Alliance staff are confident in the demand for an Everett Chamber of Commerce after hearing about it at events over the years, Clark said. Putting that downtown gives it visibility and proximity to city and county staff.
“This is a more instrumental approach to make sure that we are right in close proximity to all services,” Clark said.
The alliance is comprised of 16 people, according to the presentation Clark made Thursday. They can work remotely two days a week and are moving toward coming to the office daily, he said.
“An advantage for the city is to have people walking around, getting lunch and stuff,” Stonecipher said.
Forming a chamber of commerce in Everett again would require coordination and partnerships with groups already doing similar work, especially in south Everett, Clark said.
Unrelated, the alliance is exploring a potential chamber of commerce specifically for Hispanic and Latino businesses, Clark said.
Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @benwatanabe.
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