Place and partnership guide community engagement on top priorities

  • February 27, 2020

Regionalism is one of the top themes framing the work of Commerce’s team this year. Washington state is diverse in many ways, from our economy and environment to our history and culture.  Diversity is one of our state’s greatest strengths, and it also poses some big challenges.

The unique attributes and aspirations of Washington’s cities, towns and Tribal nations vary greatly, requiring much more than a one-size-fits-all approach to our partnerships for community and economic growth.

Our state has distinct regional economies that are experiencing the recent boom years very differently. Commerce supports communities through an extensive portfolio of nearly 100 state programs that address many different community needs, such as housing and homelessness, infrastructure, growth management, small business and economic development and clean energy.

Last year, we launched a pilot project to help us build on that portfolio of assistance through a different model for community engagement. Our “new approaches” pilot meets communities where they are, partnering with local leaders and residents to deliver tailored technical assistance that matches what the community members determine are their highest priorities.

Place matters in economic development. Vibrant communities – places where people choose to live, work and play – are crucial to grow, attract and retain business activity and jobs. Economic development and community development go hand in glove, and Commerce is a committed partner with cities, towns and Tribal communities across the state in building the futures they envision.

We just launched the final of our initial three New Approaches pilots in the town of Toppenish.

Progress on our first partnership with Chewelah was featured in a radio interview with Mayor Dorothy Knauss.

In Hoquiam, community members are now honing in on their top two priorities to receive targeted technical assistance from the Commerce team this year. Great work is happening in these communities, thanks to amazing public engagement.

Meeting rural communities where they are, listening to what they need and want, and working in partnership to help chart the path forward has been incredibly positive and productive thus far.

This month I also had the honor of attending and providing keynote remarks at the ChooseMason annual event hosted by Mason Economic Development.  It was great to meet members of the Squaxin Tribe and connect them with Commerce’s first full-time Tribal Liaison Ernie Rasmussen.

I enjoyed meeting and hearing a great small business success story from Bob Ames, founder of Skokomish Mushrooms. Bob graduated from a training program funded in part by Commerce that helped his business expand. He now reaches 17 markets and is selling 1200-1400 pounds of mushrooms a month.

It was very exciting to celebrate and share in the path ChooseMason is taking to support the community through accelerating connectivity to broadband and partnerships on infrastructure and business development.

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