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Reardon gives budget update to Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce
ARLINGTON — Local business owners got a quick rundown of the county economy during a recent Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
During the hour-long luncheon on Tuesday, May 11, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon spoke about the county’s current financial and business climate, and encouraged business owners that there is a lot of room for growth in the tourism industry.
“The Associated Press recently defined this period of time as the ‘Great Depression,’” Reardon told chamber members. “It’s deep and severe but it also has long legs. I’m not here to give gloomy news, but that’s just how it is.”
Reardon, who was also in the midst of holding five “community conversations” to talk about the budget, spent most of his time talking about the state of the county budgetary process.
He said that unlike other counties, Snohomish County put away approximately $35 million between 2004-2007 — the county’s “boom” years.
“It’s a boom and bust economy in Washington,” Reardon said.
Of that $35 million, the county still has approximately $5 million in reserves as of a few months ago, he added.
Because the county maintains a supplementary budget, which can help County Council members and officials better predict and fund shortfalls on a quarterly basis, it does not have large end-of-year cuts at the end of the year, Reardon said.
That’s why he’s in the process of educating county residents of the process, he said.
“Having these community conversations gives people the opportunity to provide feedback on services they do or don’t use,” he said.
Reardon also spoke on the county’s 10.5 percent unemployment rate, and said that realistically that rate is more like 17 percent because it does not include residents who no longer qualify for unemployment benefits.
From there, Reardon touched on Boeing’s decision in 2009 to construct its second 787 production site in South Carolina.
“Those are 7,000 jobs we could have had here,” he said, adding that he is hopeful that Boeing will eventually decide to construct its next-generation 737 in Everett.
Despite those issues, Reardon said the big focus for the county remains Boeing obtaining the bid for a $35 billion contract to supply the U.S. Air Force with aerial refueling tankers.
“We want to make sure Boeing has a fighting chance,” he said.
Boeing is competing for the contract with EADS, the parent company of European company Airbus.
Once Reardon concluded his presentation, chamber members were able to ask the county executive questions.
One of the topics Reardon spent some time on was tourism in Snohomish County.
He said that the county has always missed the boat in terms of marketing the county as a tourism destination.
With more residents planning “stay-cations” due to the economic climate, Reardon said that county businesses need to do a better job promoting the county.
“We’re not just close to everything, we have everything,” he said.
In addition to his meeting with Arlington-Smokey Point chamber members, Reardon held a community conversation at the Arlington City Council Chambers on May 11.
He also hosted conversations in Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Monroe and Everett.