How does your county grow?

Published on Thu, May 9, 2002 by Pat Grubb

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How does your county grow?

By Pat Grubb

Port of Bellingham executive director Jim Darling knows a thing or two about economic development. According to him, one of the most important sources of development aid is federal funds. To get them requires a well-thought out strategy.

Speaking at a Blaine Chamber of Commerce economic development meeting April 24 at Resort Semiahmoo, Darling said a unified county approach is essential. “In order to get any federal funds, we need to have a county-wide strategy” in order to ensure that one community doesn’t fight with others over which gets top ranking, he said. Federal funding requests are generally ranked in order of priority by Whatcom County before being submitted to various federal agencies.

Darling described the process currently underway to develop funding priorities for consideration by the county. It is being led by the Partnership for a Sustainable Economy, a consortium of different entities, including the Port of Bellingham, Whatcom County, each of the seven cities in the county and Public Utility District No. 1

The Partnership for a Sustainable Economy wants to hear from people in Whatcom County about the best ways to improve the local economy. The Partnership is hosting a series of eight community workshops throughout the county where it will tell people about goals it has developed and will get their comments on the best ways to meet those goals.

The Partnership for a Sustainable Economy is a partnership that was formed in 2001 to provide an opportunity for coordination of the many current efforts underway in the county to promote a balanced and healthy economy. Last fall, the Partnership formed an advisory committee representing a broad section of the county to make recommendations of the specifics of Whatcom County’s blueprint for a healthy economy.

The blueprint, officially called a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), is a regional planning effort underway that will decide how the economy can be enhanced, how it can stay strong or become stronger, and what the community envisions for the future of Whatcom County.

The advisory committee has completed a regional vision and goals statement, and has drafted specific economic development strategies. On March 19, they hosted an economic strategy session in Bellingham. Ninety community members representing a cross-section of local interests attended the event.

The advisory committee is now seeking the community’s feedback on the work they have done to date and asking for help in prioritizing the strategies to accomplish Whatcom County’s desired economic future.

The local communities will then complete the strategy suggestions to allow the advisory committee to finish the plan. The plan will be presented to Whatcom County Council for approval later in the summer.

The meetings are scheduled for the following communities. All meetings will start at 6:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted and will last approximately two hours..
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