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Local economic development rethink proposed

December 3rd, 2013 - 6:24am

(Port Angeles) – Is it time to rethink the model for local economic development?

That was the topic at a jam-packed Monday meeting of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The meeting featured a panel including Dr. Luke Robins of Peninsula College, Chamber President and Clallam Economic Development Council president-elect Brian Kuh, and First Federal's CEO Larry Hueth.

Each talked about the need to create a better, unified approach to economic development for the region. That might include merging some of the economic-development agencies locally.

But Hueth says the first thing needed is a plan.

“You need a business a plan to outline where you are going,” said Hueth. I think it is really the responsibility of the chamber and EDC boards to implement the plans through their executive directors.”

Hueth says coming up with a workable plan is first, but then it needs constant tweaking.

“Once the plan is developed, you evaluate your performance against that plan,” said Hueth. “If your plan calls for job growth, every year you should see if there was actually job growth, then adjust the approach as necessary.”

Doctor Luke Robins, President of Peninsula College, sits on both the Chamber board and the Economic Development Council Board, and thinks this is a good idea.

“Economic development is such an integral part of the college's overall mission that I think it makes sense for the college to be at the table not in a policy making standpoint but more of a communication aspect,” said Robbins.

Robbins says Peninsula can also partner with Washington State University in presenting a program aimed at bringing groups together to create a unified strategy.

"WSU has an educational program in government relations, pubic service and economic development. They have faculty on their staff skilled in these issues and bring expertise in managing a large group like this'” said Robbins.

The panel discussion was prompted by a letter sent from the Chamber to the EDC asking for strategic discussions on local economic development efforts. The EDC is in flux right now as its executive director is stepping down at the end of the year.

The cities of Port Angeles and Sequim as well as Clallam County have already indicated they may hold back on funding economic development agencies until there is better evidence of results based on the funding.

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