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December 13, 2012
Tacoma is poised for growth despite challenges posed by the economy. We are focused on evolving our economic development strategies, which will further develop and enhance the business climate, improve our local economy’s fiscal health and steer Tacoma toward a sustainable and viable city of opportunities.
Working closely with the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and the Tacoma Downtown Merchants Group, I’ve charged the city’s Community and Economic Development Department with ambitious goals to stabilize and diversify our local economy through the recruitment of new businesses, expanding local business, and creating and retaining local jobs.
For cities to succeed, every effort must be made to ensure that businesses have what they need to thrive. The Community and Economic Development Department has a renewed focused and will work closely with companies looking to invest in Tacoma to provide resources to sustain their businesses.
Additionally, the city provides an array of incentives for property owners, developers and investors: financing for equipment purchases, tax credits for housing development, historic tax credits for building restorations, access to in-house experts on the local real estate market, and guidance through the city’s development review process.
While the city values all business, it embraces a proud heritage of promoting entrepreneurship. Working in partnership with local technical colleges, Tacoma offers an array of services to start-up and existing small businesses, such as business planning, marketing, site selection and other key elements to help grow and sustain our small business community.
The Community and Economic Development team is preparing a comprehensive economic development strategy that will serve as the city’s framework for action over the next five years. The following are some key priorities that will be outlined in the strategy as Tacoma moves forward:
• Strengthening the city’s tax base and financial stability
This will be achieved by establishing a proactive business attraction, retention and expansion program, and working with major revenue generators to remain and expand in our city. This will also involve recruiting revenue generators in areas where Tacoma has land to either build or redevelop.
• Refining the planning and development services process
In 2013, the city will begin reviewing and updating its zoning code to simplify and streamline the development process. The review will be comprehensive, with the first phase focused on public outreach in the city’s eight neighborhood mixed-use centers and a “market reset” of the vision and zoning regulations in these areas.
The primary focus of the zoning code update will better align the city’s “smart growth” zoning approaches with the development market. Increasing flexibility, improving predictability and stimulating investment in Tacoma are the key guiding principles behind this effort.
It is anticipated that the first phase will be completed late 2013. The second phase, which will include a review of all other zoning districts, is scheduled for completion in 2014.
• Downtown development and revitalization
The city has identified several infrastructural challenges that impede the private redevelopment of buildings downtown. Our Community and Economic Development team will work with Tacoma Public Utilities and the city’s other utilities to remove those barriers which, in turn, will help strengthen our downtown and attract investment.
• Support for transit-oriented development and light rail expansion
Sound Transit officials and the Tacoma City Council will soon decide on the best possible expansion of light rail in Tacoma to support development and maximize ridership. The city will also explore numerous opportunities to promote transit-oriented development near the Tacoma Dome and South Tacoma’s Sound Transit stations.
• Waterfront development
Key to the city’s growth will be the continued support of the revitalization of the waterfront and expansion of the work done by the Foss Waterway Development Authority to construct a new hotel and support commercial development. Extending the esplanade throughout downtown Tacoma and promoting bicycling and water sports will help drive tourism and build our tax base, as will Tacoma’s continued support of the development and build-out of Point Ruston and commercial development at Point Defiance.
Establishing a positive environment for start-ups and small businesses to flourish throughout Tacoma continues to be a high priority. We will continue to partner with local technical colleges and our economic development partners to support small business development.
• Job training and procurement
We will establish more collaborative relationships with nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord to address the unique challenges and opportunities that exist with our transitioning military personnel population. The city will also help initiate revenue-generating connections between contractors, government and public agencies, nonprofits, the Port of Tacoma, the Puyallup Tribe and private industry. We will also work to connect young people interested in trade industry jobs with suitable employment.
• Arts, tourism, hospitality and the link to economic development
We will work to add additional hotel accommodations to help boost convention and special events activity and support tourism generated by Tacoma’s vibrant arts scene. Additionally, we will look to expand such art programs as Spaceworks, an incubator program for new and emerging artists to create start-ups in underutilized commercial spaces.
• Attracting foreign investment
The Port of Tacoma, one of the largest container ports in North America and one of the top 50 in the world, is an important player in Pacific Rim trade. The city will partner with the port to fill vacant properties with maritime industry companies and leverage our sister cities relationships to serve as a catalyst for global investment opportunities.
Tacoma has been faced with a number of challenges, but it is a city that is ready to build a strong economic foundation that cultivates a high quality of life, a strong business investment climate and a sustainable future. As residents, elected officials, private and nonprofit businesses, and city staff come together to develop a long-term plan that will drive Tacoma forward, I am confident we will become a city flourishing with opportunities.
T.C. Broadnax has more than 19 years of local government management experience and is recognized for his contributions in citizen engagement, community and economic development, financial management and situational leadership within the development community. He began serving as Tacoma’s city manager in February, overseeing more than 2,200 staff and an operating and capital budget of about $400 million.