City releases second phase of employment lands study

The Bellingham Business Journal

As part of the City’s continuing efforts to support and enhance job growth and business opportunities, the second phase of a study of Bellingham’s employment lands will be presented to the City Council at a 1 p.m. meeting on Jan. 25.

The first phase of the study, completed in 2008, provided an overview of Bellingham’s industry sectors, employment zones, and future employment capacity.

“These reports provide a solid baseline of understanding to help jumpstart our new Office of Business Relations and Economic Development,” Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike said in a statement.  “We intend to work with the business community to evaluate these recommendations and create an Economic Development Action Plan that will identify specific actions the City can take to encourage job growth and job retention as well as foster a positive attitude towards businesses.”

The City’s action plan is intended to complement the Greater Whatcom Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) currently being updated, he added.

Prepared by the Seattle consulting firm Property Counselors, the report focuses on target industries that have good growth potential, high wages and salaries, and currently exist in high concentrations in Bellingham.  Those sectors include marine trades, adventure-related recreation, software and telecommunications, equipment manufacturing, professional, scientific and technical services, food processing, health care, and education and training.

Ten local businesses representing three of the target sectors were identified for case studies involving in-depth interviews.  The goal was to discern what competitive factors favor Bellingham as a business location, which industries are a good fit here, what  those industries’ land and infrastructure needs are, and what tools the City can employ to retain and encourage expansion in these target sectors.

Based on the information provided in the interviews, as well as analysis of other existing reports and data, 12 specific recommendations for potential regulatory tools were developed for the City to consider.  These include assigning a point person at the City for economic development, something that has been already accomplished through the newly formed Office of Business Relations and Economic Development.  Other recommendations include:

  • Establishing appropriate land use rules
  • Considering reductions to impact fees and Business & Occupation Tax for certain sectors
  • Encouraging a more “business-friendly” attitude
  • Improving local air and bus service as well as availability of downtown parking
  • Providing direction to finance expansion
  • Supporting incubator development

The complete report is available on the city’s Web site at http://www.cob.org/services/business/economic-development.aspx.  For more information, call Chris Behee, Planning & Community Development, at (360) 778-8346.

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