Crucial choices to be made regarding Edmonds’ future

By Bob McChesney, Executive Director, the Port of Edmonds | Mar 04, 2010
At the regular Commission meeting last week, a report on economic development in Snohomish County was presented by EDC Executive Director, Deborah Knudson.

The report expressed the latest demographic, business development and tax base information. It was focused on the greater Edmonds/Woodway community. It revealed some challenging questions and framed the economic realities facing future development that was not always pretty or pleasant to hear.

In the past these periodic reports have focused on the county business climate. This time it was different. 

After carefully showing key demographics and statistics of Edmonds, she summarized by suggesting the Edmonds community needs to engage these issues and come up with a workable vision that’s actionable from a development perspective, without changing the essential character of the City.

Its an exercise in simple arithmetic shrouded by complex economic realities and competing visions. Municipalities and other public agencies in Snohomish County pay their bills from revenues collected, and that comes from property taxes and sales taxes (and other business-generated taxes).

The report made it clear that compared to other communities in Snohomish County—cities that her organization also serves—Edmonds has great upside potential for expanding its tax base, but it needs a plan; it needs development; and it needs to execute.

There is a Catch 22 here. As Knudson noted, Edmonds is not on any company or major developer’s radar screen as a place to start or relocate a business. One reason, commercial realtors tell her, is that Edmonds doesn’t have the retail businesses and other support services that employers seek for their employees.

As one commercial realtor stated, Edmonds needs to create a reason for businesses to come here. We have to create a reason for businesses to want to come to Edmonds.

Knutson also pointed out some realities about Edmonds’ population. Right now 26 percent of the population is over 60 and in just four more years that will jump to 30.4 percent. Nearly a third of Edmonds population will be at or near retirement age.

 One logical conclusion is there will be a cost for doing nothing. Unless there can soon be discovered a broad based community support for some type of meaningful economic development, these secondary effects will no doubt become an imposition and a reality.

The first step is public involvement. Not just from the Port of Edmonds, but from other local groups, including the Edmonds Economic Development Commission, and from concerned local citizens.

Ms. Knudson’s point was abundantly clear, it is time to bring the public to the table, to reframe the discussion about economic development, and if not consensus at least a broad agreement on how to move forward. It seems that everyone most likely has the same general goal for making Edmonds a strong, beautiful, liveable and viable community, but with many different ideas about how to get there.

Watch this column for news of the first Harbor Square public meeting. And prepare to come and participate. Our future is up to you.

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