ON MARCH 1, 201 7, leaders from across the region came together at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center for a progress report on the EDB’s recruitment and retention work, unveiling of the Excellent 10, announcement of this year’s Golden Shovel Award winner, and to hear an economic prognosis from a national expert.
Kari Scott, chair of the EDB board of directors and regional vice president and senior vice president of Commercial Banking for Wells Fargo Bank, welcomed more than 500 guests to the 39th EDB Annual Meeting.
“Economic development is a team sport,” Scott told the audience. “Your efforts, both financial and otherwise, are important as we all work together to help companies make the decision to invest and grow jobs in this market.”
Bruce Kendall, EDB president and CEO, reported that for every dollar invested in the EDB the organization returns $120 to the South Sound economy. “There is a story of partnership behind each success,” Kendall said. “It sometimes takes months and even years of teamwork to make the deal.” Over the last five years (2012-2016) the EDB helped companies create or retain more than 3,700 jobs. These firms invested more than $367 millionin Pierce County and paid more than $221 million in wages annually.
Key recruitment and retention successes in 2016 included: the new FedEx Ground facility (300 jobs, $165 million investment); Mitsui-Soko (30 jobs, $17 million investment);NewCold (50-100 jobs, $50 million investment); Bradken(anticipated $12.5 million investment); State Farm (workforce recruitment); and Puget Sound Energy (LNG plant site prep).
Kendall shared stories to illuminate the EDB’s approach to driving investment and job creation in Pierce County: Toray Composites (America); the community’s ongoing work to deliver a new law school to University of Washington Tacoma; and work toward catalyzing the development of newClass A office space.
The Excellent 10
This year’s Excellent 10 are projects
selected by the EDB for their positive impact on the Pierce County economy in the previous year. The winners are, in alphabetical order: The Benaroya donation to the Tacoma Art Museum
; Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility
(University Place); Commencement Bay Corrugated
(Orting); FedEx Ground
(Fife); Mitsui Soko
(Tacoma); Prologis Site 14
(Tacoma/Fife); Point Defiance Bypass rail project
(Tacoma); State Route 167 and State Route 509 expansion funding
(regional); and urban housing
Golden Shovel goes to Point Ruston
The Golden Shovel Award is presented to organizations or individuals that have made significant contributions to the economic wellbeing of Tacoma and Pierce County. This year’s award was presented to Mike Cohen and his son Loren Cohen, true visionaries who turned a former smelter site into the $1.2 billion Point Ruston Urban Village. The world-class, mixed-use development is a gem in the region’s economic development crown, and the gold standard on any tour of great places to live, work and play.
“We couldn’t achieve what we have without a great team and the great City of Tacoma,” said Mike Cohen on accepting the award. Loren Cohen acknowledged the decades of community support throughout development of the historic site and added that there’s much more to come. A new condominium project is in progress and sales are brisk. In a few months, ground will break on a 218-unit, multi-family apartment complex. The Cohens are working with Tacoma’s Economic Development Department to ensure at least 20 percent of the units are affordable housing.
The economy: What we know and what’s uncertain
Keynote speaker Dr. Bill Conerly, economic advisor to hundreds of business and institutions, presented a provocative overview of current business challenges and opportunities, and a forecast for the future.
On the national front, consumers are in a fairly stable mode. Housing starts are flat, and spending will go up in the new budget cycle. It’s what we don’t know that is significant, Conerly noted. He offered some best guesses.
There will be some small regulatory changes. Regarding immigration policy, expect more audits to determine if employees have appropriate documentation, which means disruption and risk for vulnerable businesses. Conerly expects there will be a few trade deals cut, and then the administration will take a step back. When it comes to taxes, some simplification and lower marginal rates are likely.
In light of all this uncertainty, Conerly said, “A lot of companies are likely to drag their feet on plans to spend money. That makes for a flat year nationally in 2017.”
From a local economic perspective, Conerly sees strong job growth and continued population growth, which will require more housing. That means greater density, more land and more construction workers. The local economy will continue to grow at a better pace than what is expected nationally.
What’s the overall prognosis? Conerly closed with these pearls: “The American economy is resilient. The American people are resilient. The nation is resilient. That’s my economic forecast.”
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