Published January 2001

With its five-year, $3.5 million plan,
the EDC is in pursuit of


By Kimberly Hilden
Herald Business Journal Assistant Editor

Everett businessman Reid Shockey has been fascinated by land-use planning since a couple of college professors got him hooked on the subject in the late 1960s.

“I’m one of those people who am still doing what I got my degree in,” said Shockey, a graduate of the University of Washington and founder and President of Shockey/Brent Inc., a land-use planning and civil engineering company based in downtown Everett.

Now, the former planning director for the city of Everett has brought his expertise and enthusiasm to the Snohomish County Economic Development Council’s 2001-2005 Economic Development Initiatives and Strategic Plan.

“This is something I feel very strongly about,” said Shockey, who as chairman of the EDC has been “selling the plan,” along with EDC President Deborah Knutson, to the county’s public and private sectors. “This is the implementation of growth management.”

The plan, approved by the EDC board in July and formally introduced at the council’s annual meeting in November, targets four areas the economic organization will focus on and invest in during the next five years: marketing and recruiting new businesses, retaining and expanding existing businesses, increasing worker training efforts, and working on infrastructure and land-use issues.

The end goal includes raising 4,000 new jobs in the county, each paying a “living wage” of $38,000 to $45,000 a year, according to the strategic plan.

But the initiative is not just about jobs; it’s about improving the quality of life in Snohomish County, Shockey said.

“If we can get Eastside-quality development, in not only businesses but housing ... then we are going to develop an image of being a quality community, a place where people want to live,” he said.

To get to that point will require the EDC budget to increase from $300,000 annually to $700,000 for each of the next five years — that’s where the selling comes in.

“We’ve been into this thing for about four months, knocking on doors (and saying), ‘It’s time to write the check,’ ” to businesses and governments that said they’d support the plan in the early stages, Shockey said.

So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, Shockey said, with $2 million collected by mid-November.

“We’ve received a very balanced response from the private/public sector. A whole lot of governments are going to be a part of this thing,” he said, adding that he expects the EDC to reach its $3.5 million goal early this year.

The catalyst for the initiative, Shockey said, was Knutson, who joined the Snohomish County EDC as president more than two years ago after working as vice president of the Economic and Development Council of Seattle and King County.

Before Knutson came on board, the EDC had done a couple of things to recruit business and had gotten involved with policy issues through its Land Use Committee, but nothing with the breadth of the new five-year plan, said Shockey, who has been involved with the EDC since the 1980s.

“I think Deborah felt that if we were going to be a true leader in economic development, we had to gear up the staff and programs and concentrate on a few objectives: to increase the image of the county as a good place to do quality economic development and to work with educational folks in the county to make sure that in recruiting new businesses, we could offer a work force to those businesses,” Shockey said.

The economic boom down south also spurred the EDC, Shockey said.

“We keep reading and hearing about how well downtown Seattle is doing in attracting high-tech businesses, bio-med businesses,” he said. “We see a lot of new investment and redevelopment such as Belltown, where people are investing significant dollars to put up quality buildings to attract businesses. ... But we also know it’s running out of space.

“Deborah ... and the board looked at that situation and said, ‘Why not us?’ Instead of just conceding quality growth to Pierce County and Tacoma, if we can just grab 25 percent, the effect will be better-looking communities and employment for residents,” Shockey said.

About a year ago, the EDC hired Denver-based consultant R&M Resource Development to survey county businesses about the proposed initiative to aggressively pursue high-tech businesses.

“Once they completed the survey, we hired them to sell the program — to get the checks,” Shockey said. “I attended a whole lot of meetings with Deborah and R&M. R&M laid out the facts and numbers, and between Deborah and I, we explained in local language what the benefit would be.”

For the private sector, that meant discussing job creation and the “multiplier effect” that would have on the economy, Shockey said. For the public sector, it was quality-of-life issues, such as “getting people off I-5” and “home at night a half-hour after work instead of two hours after work.”

One benefit that wasn’t written into the initiative but is happening as a result, is a growing relationship between the EDC and groups that in the past were opposed to growth, Shockey said.

Through meetings with such groups, the EDC has listened to skepticism and worries, and voiced its own goals.

“I’ve been in some of those meetings,” Shockey said, “and the first couple of meetings were very tense, where the one side wasn’t at the point where they could trust the other side. And that trust is building, and it’s going to be good for the citizens of Snohomish County.”

Because like it or not, “you can’t slow growth down on a wish,” he said. “We are going to grow as a county, the growth-management plan has told us that.”

The trick is to do it right.

“‘Smart’ growth, as a concept, I think is a wonderful idea, and as chair of the EDC, I’m going to do my part to make that happen,” Shockey said.

As part of the initiative, the EDC will report regularly on the program’s progress — to investors, participants, partners and the general public. And when December rolls around, Shockey knows what he’d like to report at the EDC’s annual meeting.

“I want to stand before the group ... and say, ‘We want to show you what’s happened over the past year and show you how some of these jobs that we know have come to Snohomish County were a direct result of the initiative,’ ” Shockey said about the 500 to 750 new jobs he expects in that time.

“And I really want to show the community that the EDC was a leader in developing not only quantity of jobs but quality of jobs.”

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