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Citys workshop prioritizes economic development
ARLINGTON The pressure is on Vic Ericson, after the city of Arlingtons volunteer members of boards and commissions, as well as city staff, named the economy and economic development as the biggest, most important obstacle/opportunity facing the city in the next year.
Ericson is the citys economic development consultant in his second year of tenure with the city.
The City Council and Mayor Margaret Larson invited the citys volunteers and staff for a dinner meeting last week and they were asked for input on what are the top two opportunities and/or obstacles facing the city of Arlington in the upcoming year. The list will help guide the Council at its annual planning retreat, which is set for Jan. 25 27 in La Conner.
By the end of the evening, emcee Steve Peiffle calculated that the most frequently mentioned issue was related in some way or another to economics, either the slow economy and slumping housing market and its impacts on the citys plans and budget or the continuing need to support local businesses while inviting new, thriving businesses to town.
The second most frequent issue mentioned at the three-hour workshop Jan. 10 was 172nd Street and Smokey Point traffic and related issues.
The third most frequently mentioned project was signage, branding and marketing also economic development issues that fall to Ericson and his economic development plan.
Grades on the performance of the city ranged from 3, or Cs to A-minus, just because there is always room for improvement. Some commission members reported satisfaction with working with the city staff and Council while others were not so content.
A member of the planning commission for nearly a year now, Virginia Collins was grateful for the opportunity to speak directly to a City Council member.
It was good to have an opportunity to share with a Council member about some of our difficulties, Collins said. She has been frustrated with all the hard work that she and fellow commissioners put into the job with little acknowledgement by elected officials.
We all put a lot of thought into the issues on our agenda, Collins said.
We discuss issues pretty thoroughly and dont just rubber stamp things. Collins was especially frustrated with the Councils decision on house-banked card rooms after the planning commission had voted unanimously against it.
I think that the city is not looking at the big picture as well as it could, she said.
We review proposals in the context of quality of life and card rooms definitely dont contribute to that.
Collins felt that, while economic development is certainly important, and the Olympic Avenue street project was a very successful step forward, she would like to see more assistance for small businesses.
I think the city needs to help existing small businesses as well as recruiting new ones, Collins said.
Mayor Larson felt the workshop confirmed that she and the Council are on the right track.
We are definitely focused on transportation and economic development, Larson said.
She said there were other good ideas presented that she hadnt thought of.
The TDR program is very important but there are a lot of other things to work on too, Larson said adding she doesnt think the housing slump is impacting Arlingtons progress.
I dont see that happening here in Snohomish County as much as in other places, Larson said.
The slower economy, in fact, could provide time for the city to get its ducks in a row and work on other projects mentioned, such as planning for growth, including infrastructure and acquiring more park land especially in Smokey Point, completing the two gaps in the Centennial Trail, making progress on the idea of branding together with signage for all of Arlington, and developing increased citizen involvement in governmental affairs by improved communications.
Ericson, in the meantime, has been busy working on the 72-point economic development plan, which was developed by the economic development committee two years ago. He can check off the Olympic Avenue project, which was top on the list, and he has been helping downtown businesses by providing assistance in planning a new Arlington Eagle Festival on Feb. 9. He also helped coordinate a workshop on project planning primarily for members of the Downtown Arlington Business Association, last week. The workshop was presented by the citys Capital Projects Manager, Paul Ellis.
A member of the economic development committee, Steve Peterson believes that Ericson is working hard on his list of tasks.
Hes doing what we hired him for and hes doing a great job, Peterson said.
Maybe he needs to stay on point, but hes heading in the right direction.
Peterson said the next top item on the 72-point list is traffic corridors in Smokey Point.
Weve got the plan and now weve got to make it happen, Peterson said, adding that it all fits together like a gear and a wheel.
Once you get one thing done, the next falls into place.