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March 28, 2002

Building a 'fertile crescent' in Snohomish County

  • Nine groups team up to build infrastructure to attract development
  • By TERRY STEPHENS
    Special to the Journal

    Monroe
    Photo by Terry Stephens
    Recent growth in Monroe includes a proliferation of retail stores and restaurants along state Route 2, as well as development of nearby industrial parks and the city’s downtown core.

    Look for more public works projects and economic development activity in eastern Snohomish County this summer, thanks to the new Evergreen Crescent Initiative by six small towns and three economic development agencies that are collectively targeting new infrastructure and business promotion in an unusual partnership effort.

    The six communities — Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Sultan and Goldbar — are expected to join forces to leverage their community strengths in an alliance aimed at developing everything from roads and utilities needed to support business and population growth to plans for continued economic development.

    The Evergreen Crescent Initiative — named for the crescent-shaped map image of the six town sites scattered along state Routes 92, 9 and 2 — will also gain strength and support from three significant partners: the Snohomish County Planning Department, Central Puget Sound Economic Development District and Snohomish County Economic Development Council.

    “As an escape from the urbanization of the I-5 corridor, their populations are steadily climbing with the addition of new housing and subdivisions,” said Deborah Knutson, president of the Snohomish County EDC. “But new homes and residents don’t provide the financial foundation to allow these cities to adequately expand their infrastructures to support the additional population (and businesses).”

    Knutson said the communities all need expanded roads, upgraded water and sewer capacity, additional lighting and more developed town centers to not only alleviate present growth problems but also to attract new businesses and jobs that will increase tax revenues to support necessary government growth.

    But because “such initiatives are costly, far beyond budgets of these smaller communities” and because their size makes it “difficult to compete with larger jurisdictions for the dwindling amounts of federal and state funds” to make those improvements, the EDC has been working on ways to help the towns accomplish their goals by banding together for common causes.

    Once all of the jurisdictions have reached agreement on the details of forming the Evergreen Crescent Initiative (ECI), expected later this month, the towns will select representatives and begin pursuing various projects with the advice and assistance of the three planning and economic development bodies.

    “The ECI will give them a little more political clout and the expertise to compete with larger cities for development funds they may not have a chance to get alone,” said Michael Cade, Snohomish County EDC vice president and the chair of the ECI Task Force.

    Cade said the ECI will help identify the things the communities need for quality development, enumerate the barriers to accomplishing their goals and pinpoint potential solutions. Knutson said many of the cities’ needs focus on critical infrastructure projects but they also need to develop marketing programs and a “solid economic and community development strategy.”

    Various city officials have also expressed a joint interest in developing an industrial market analysis for their communities, freight mobility planning, improved planning and permitting coordination, and closer liaison with county, regional and state planning agencies.

    They are also seeking ways to enhance downtown or main street business districts as well as programs to promote tourism for their combined “crescent” area that encompasses some of the county’s most scenic field, forest and mountain regions.

    Because federal support funds from the Economic Development Association and the Central Puget Sound Economic Development District need to be spent by Sept. 1, Cade expects “the group will need to move pretty quickly, we’re not going to drag this out — you can expect to see some deliverables fairly soon.”

    The group must complete enough of its market analysis and project ranking by spring to submit public works projects for this year.

    The Snohomish County alliance is the result of the Small Cities Technical Assistance Program established in fiscal year 2000 by the Central Puget Sound Economic Development District in Seattle, a group formed to provide technical economic development planning assistance to small communities, under 15,000 population, when they show a clear need for planning assistance and distress relief.

    The CPSEDD program provides a foundation and assistance for decisions and actions on government investments, land use decisions and marketing and promotional activities aimed at retaining and creating living-wage jobs. Once the district staff completed its background investigations and discussions with numerous small cities in the fourth quarter of 2001, the CPSEDD explored various needs and ideas with the Snohomish County EDC and elected officials of Snohomish County government.


    The alliance
    An unusual new economic development alliance is expected to be launched in eastern Snohomish County later this month by six communities and three economic development agencies. Known as the Evergreen Crescent Initiative, the group plans an inventory of industrial properties, promotion of their area for tourism and business development, and construction of new roads and utilities.

    The nine members of the group include the towns of Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Sultan and Goldbar, plus the Snohomish County Planning Department, Central Puget Sound Economic Development District and Snohomish County Economic Development Council.

    The chair of the ECI Task Force, Michael Cade, vice president of the Snohomish County Economic Development Council, said he expects the group will identify things the communities need for quality development, critical infrastructure projects, joint marketing programs and a variety of economic and community development strategies.

    Once all nine parties ratify the ECI plan, the ECI Task Force will set meeting schedules and locations, identify industrial properties for ranking, identify public works or other investments needed to promote economic development, select a consultant, approve the consultant’s work plan, approve a final ranking of development sites and strategic priorities and approve joint marketing plans.

    Primary representatives for the three economic development partners will include Michael Cade, vice president of the Snohomish County EDC, who will manage the consultant contract, provide fiscal management for joint ECI funds and manage the marketing and advertising program; Tom Boydell of the Central Puget Sound Economic Development District, serving as vice chair and as a technical consultant on strategy, marketing, development, finances and partnerships; and Alison Sing of the Snohomish County Executive’s Office to coordinate issues between the county and city members of the ECI, provide general oversight and information about county planning efforts and help facilitate intergovernmental partnerships and communication with county officials.

    Along with their membership duties on the ECI Task Force, the six city representatives will be responsible for economic development plans for their respective cities, coordination with local planning commissions, chambers of commerce or other groups, communications with local elected officials and any financial or in-kind contributions to ECI by the cities.

    Once the group approves a budget, it will consist of 60 percent federal technical assistance money, with 40 percent coming from local matching funds.

    More information about the Snohomish County Evergreen Crescent Initiative is available from Michael Cade, (425) 743-4567, info@snoedc.org or www.snoedc.org.


     


    Terry Stephens is a freelance writer based in Arlington. He can be reached by e-mail at features@gte.net.



     


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