EDC STRATEGIC PRIORITIES FOR 2020 - 2025
The Economic Development Council for Island County (EDC) focuses on promoting and assisting business growth throughout Island County. We promote Island County as a remarkable quality of life locale for business development and living wage jobs. This document outlines the strategic priorities which will guide the EDC for the five-year period starting in 2020 and ending in 2025. The challenges created by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have changed the way that the EDC will address these strategic priorities during the next five years.
TOP TIER STRATEGIC PRIORITIES
Economic Recovery and Resiliency
Island County, along with the rest of Washington State and the nation, is in a recession because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our businesses, workers, and economy are being impacted in unprecedented ways. For the foreseeable future, therefore, the EDC's top priority is economic recovery and resiliency. The EDC will work to help our businesses and economy recover from this recession, as well as support business start-ups. The EDC will act as a recovery advisor for businesses and nonprofits seeking one-on-one or group assistance. The EDC will advocate for funding, programs and policies that protect our local businesses and help them grow and thrive in the new economy. The EDC will partner with all levels of government to direct available resources where they are needed. The EDC will support efforts seeking to return our trade and service people to work, with a focus on utilizing the skills and capacity of the workforce living in Island County. The EDC will engage in a number of other ongoing activities that support this effort, all outlined in the EDC’s Statement of Priorities for COVID-19 Pandemic Economic Recovery (May 8, 2020). This work will support the recovery and economic resiliency of Island County.
Assistance with Business Attraction
The EDC will advocate for programs and policies that encourage and assist in the attraction of businesses to Island County.
The EDC will advocate for programs and policies to increase access to affordable housing for workers in Island County. There is currently an insufficient amount of affordable housing in the county, and increasing the amount of housing that aligns with workers’ wages will provide growth potential for Island County businesses. The EDC will support local efforts to increase workforce housing by providing information and assistance to developers, non-profits, government agencies, and others seeking to add housing. It will also work to eliminate obstacles to developing entry-level housing needed to attract a younger demographic to our community. Finally, the EDC will work to support opportunities to increase housing options for those who wish to live in Island County and work off-island.
Workforce Training and Development
The EDC will engage with partners, programs, and policies that support appropriate and sufficient technical skills training programs and apprenticeship opportunities for growing and/or emerging employment sectors. These activities will help local businesses grow, diversify the local job base, and create a business friendly climate that will attract living-wage job growth. Residents with significant experience—such as SCORE volunteers—can work with entrepreneurs and workers to develop skills and provide mentorship. The EDC will continue to partner with organizations that support and strengthen small businesses such as Goosefoot, Small Business Administration, Skagit Valley College, and Sno-Isle Libraries. EDC will work with Leadership Whidbey to develop and enhance community leadership training, and it will advocate for Career and Technical Education opportunities at all secondary schools.
Information Technology and Broadband
Many areas of Island County have affordable high-speed internet service. In other parts of the county the absence of affordable and reliable internet is a barrier to establishing and growing those businesses requiring robust internet service. It is a priority of the EDC that high-quality internet is available for all businesses needing it. The EDC will advocate for programs and policies which increase access to quality, high-speed broadband that supports economic development in Island County.
The EDC will advocate for programs and policies that support businesses in our agricultural community—including eco-tourism, agri-entrepreneurs, and farms—by providing resources and information as available. The programs and policies will establish Island County as a positive business climate for entrepreneurs who can conduct operations from any location, and help to eliminate unwarranted barriers and address infrastructure constraints to opening and operating businesses in Island County.
SECOND TIER STRATEGIC PRIORITIES
Tourism, Hospitality and Recreation
The EDC will advocate for programs and policies which enhance tourism and recreation, particularly during the shoulder season from October through April. This includes support for the initiatives of the Island County Tourism Committee and for business owners and entrepreneurs in the tour and hospitality industry. The goal will be to improve the sustainability and predictability of the County’s tourism economy through seasonal balance. Increasing transportation options for Island County visitors (for example, options for walking on ferry rather than driving) will continue to be a priority, as will marketing efforts focused on locally made goods and on local shoulder season events. Military personnel who are looking for unique experiences will be connected with opportunities on Whidbey and Camano Islands.
Arts and Culture
The EDC will advocate for programs and policies which support the arts and culture community, including storefronts, galleries, instruction, retreats, festivals and home-based workshops.
Island County’s aging resident base represents an increasing need for services. The EDC will advocate for programs and policies that support new businesses and facilities addressing needs associated with an aging population and assisting this population with aging at home and in their community. It will also work in partnership with other organizations to attract, retain, and train working age adults to staff both new and existing businesses.