As we — and many on Top 10 Lists — know, Whatcom County is extremely fortunate for being recognized because of the many highly attractive features of our region. At the same time, we are in the midst of unprecedented redevelopment along our most urban waterfront, and we continue to evolve from being a resource-based economy to a diverse and world-class small business community.
Changes in our Greater Whatcom region require thoughtful planning for sufficient infrastructure, appropriately available and serviced lands, reliable transportation, good schools and healthcare, safe communities, and a highly skilled workforce. These all need to be addressed while following the guidelines of our state’s Growth Management Act and incorporating the values of our local community.
These are the tasks of “economic development.”
For me, good “economic development,” leading to community vitality, requires incorporation of four facets: economic, environmental, social and political, that is — all our relationships. Growing up on the farm, we knew this as stewardship. The concept of stewardship, and its reminder of our personal responsibility, captures the essence of ‘how’ we are to engage with while living in our communities.
For successful economic vitality, there are a few key considerations:
- Well-researched information is crucial. Asset mapping (understanding who we are) is just as important as creating a master plan (defining who/what we want to be).
- Synergy and collaboration offer the best opportunity for effective results — both with leveraging dollars and resources and in bringing broader perspectives to light.
- Our community is unique — there is no other place that has the features, benefits, demographics, and challenges that we do.
- It is our job as stewards to respectfully work together for our overall greater good.
The role of the BWEDC
The Bellingham Whatcom Economic Development Council (BWEDC) is one of many practitioners in our region working to assist the community in providing economic vitality through the creation and retention of desired jobs, while respecting our quality of life, conserving and managing our resources, and respecting our core values. The BWEDC does this through our traditional business tools and resources, and now through a new roundtable format of the Economic Strategies Council.
Business tools and resources
All businesses — large or small, local or global — may access information, tools and resources on the BWEDC Web site at www.bwedc.org. Direct (one-on-one) services are also available through the BWEDC. We work both with individual businesses and public entities to assist their economic development efforts.
For one-on-one consultation, we work closely with our partners such as WWU’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), and NW Workforce Development Council (NWDC). Recently, two local manufacturing and technology support businesses were successful recipients of our Revolving Loan Fund.
Likewise, we partner with the public sector by administering programs such as Whatcom County’s Economic Development Investment (EDI) Fund, which provides loans and/or grants for public facilities/infrastructure that are needed for the creation and retention of jobs. Recent successful recipients include the city of Lynden for the West Lynden industrial lands infrastructure, and the city of Ferndale for their Riverwalk improvements.
Two regional special projects were completed during 2007. The Northwest Washington Marine Industry Cluster Study addressed the impact and identified needs of our region’s world-renowned marine industry (www.marinecenterofexcellence.com). The Mt. Baker Foothills Communications and Economic Development Project outlined strategies for installing infrastructure for high speed Internet & cell phone service, and identified action steps to support a resilient and sustainable economy, while keeping the area’s rural character.
Economic Strategies Council
The Economic Strategies Council (ESC) is being established as a venue for information exchange that crosses industry sectors from manufacturing to healthcare, and agriculture to government. One of the initial, and ongoing, tasks is to conduct an “asset map” of our community. It is imperative for any community planning to understand our core competencies and uniqueness.
The goal of the ESC will be to identify issues that impact our community’s economic vitality and suggest strategies that combine our assets and values with desired targets as we prepare for our changing needs. This includes addressing viable, resilient and sustainable jobs that are expanding in or relocating to our area.
What’s next for the BWEDC
We are pleased to announce that the BWEDC board of directors has implemented a new investor/member fee structure. This is in response to local businesses and individuals wishing to support a countywide effort of community and economic development services. This change is not intended to compete with other membership organizations but to more closely match the demographics of our local businesses. Details are available on our Web site at www.bwedc.org.
Also, on our Web site, watch for ongoing updates, especially in our Real Estate & Infrastructure section, and for announcements of upcoming events.
As stated above, we have a great opportunity and responsibility in shaping the future vitality of the Greater Whatcom region. The BWEDC is committed to participating by providing services and resources that support these efforts. We also welcome your participation with our advisory teams, which guide our programs and services.
If you are interested in becoming further engaged, please contact us directly at 676-4255 or e-mail at email@example.com.
Nancy Jordan is the executive director of the Bellingham Whatcom Economic Development Council. She can be reached at 676-4255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.