By Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville
Community leaders talk a lot about economic development, but what exactly is it? What can City government do to encourage a thriving local economy? How do we make sure that our economic development efforts match our community’s goals? And how do we know if these activities are successful?
City officials are considering these questions and others, and we invite you to learn more and let us know what you think. We are taking steps to encourage existing businesses to stay and expand in our community, and positioning the City to attract new businesses and grow in sensible, sustainable ways.
Economic development is typically described as the creation of jobs, which improves the quality of life for all residents. The main goal of economic development is to improve the economic and social well-being of a community through efforts that encourage retention and creation of jobs, enhance the tax base and improve quality of life.
There is no single strategy for successful economic development. Partnerships among public agencies, non-profit organizations and the private sector each contributing to a common goal are critically important to our community’s success. As a public agency, the City must be transparent and accountable in our actions and make choices based on information and data. We are emphasizing activities and services that:
The City Council has adopted a series of Legacies and Strategic Commitments that set an ambitious vision for the next twenty to fifty years, one of which is to support a vibrant, sustainable economy. As our regional economy begins to stabilize, it is essential that we take concrete steps to meet these goals and measure our progress along the way. Actions we are considering this year include:
The City Council is considering a new chapter for the City’s Comprehensive Plan devoted to economic development. The document proposes key economic goals:
The Council is expected to consider these goals and policies proposed to achieve them at the May 13 Council meeting. The agenda for this meeting will be available on May 9 at www.cob.org/council.
The Downtown Plan is an effort underway to identify needs, revise and simplify rules and regulations, remove barriers to investing, and establish actions to improve vitality. We have involved businesses and residents and many others who care about downtown. We are building action plans to address parking, behavioral issues and crime, creating new downtown neighborhood connections, and promoting historic preservation efforts. For more information, visit the City website at www.cob.org/downtown.
We have a number of economic development activities underway, but none as extraordinary as our work with the Port of Bellingham to redevelop the downtown waterfront. As we are implementing our downtown and Old Town plans, our goals are to clean up this waterfront property, create public access, and plan for growing demand for jobs and housing. The draft City/Port plan proposes a balance: parks and light industrial areas, jobs and recreation, accessible beaches and working waterways. It envisions a steady rate of development over several decades, with gradual public investment. The plan is currently under review by the Bellingham Planning Commission. For more information visit the City website at www.cob.org/waterfront.
Economic development is as big and complex as a sewer treatment plant upgrade or a 237-acre waterfront clean up and redevelopment. Economic development is strategic. And economic development is as simple as thanking our existing businesses for investing in our community, and making sure they get what they need from City government so they can continue to thrive here. As we consider various economic development plans and actions in the coming weeks and months, please let us know what economic development means to you by contacting my office at 778-8100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: May 3, 2013