ARLINGTON – Marketing alone won’t attract investors to the newly designated Cascade Industrial Center in Arlington and Marysville, but it has created a buzz over the last few years evident in the manufacturers who have already moved in.
Randal Southam, founder and creative director for Southam Creative, provided the Arlington City Council with an update Monday of its Arlington Awaits economic development campaign and the CIC.
The city hired the Brier-based consulting firm in 2015 to market Arlington to companies nationwide as a valuable place for retailers and manufacturers to do business.
“We built the Arlington Awaits brand, produced video testimonials featuring local businesses, public relations and set up an online presence,” Southam said. He added that they also have been involved with Economic Alliance Snohomish County’s China initiative that has led to 2,500 people in China following Arlington online. “So there has been some good traction there.”
More recently, Southam worked with the Puget Sound Regional County, EASC and the cities in renaming the Arlington-Marysville MIC the Cascade Industrial Center.
All the government entities involved in the regional center “basically ran a contest” to choose a name, he said. The effort drew about a dozen ideas. “It was put out to people for a vote and Cascade was the one that came back from a broad cross-section of developers and public sector people.”
Southam said that in themarketing campaign, they tracked sales tax revenues, business license applications, construction permits, tenant improvement permits and land-use application as indicators for how effectively their efforts are being carried out.
Over the past four years, sales tax revenues have continued to consistently rise. Land use applications are also on a steady upward trend, with 21 in 2016, 32 in 2017, 40 in 2018 and 22 so far in 2019. Likewise, there were five construction permits issued in 2016, 12 in 2017, 19 in 2018 and eight so far this year.
Southam said they closely monitor online traffic analytics. In four years, the Arlington Awaits website has reported over 3 million interactions, with 1.4 million video views and 200,000 unique visitors.
Most of the web traffic comes from outside the local area from states with perceived unfriendly business climates where Southam markets Arlington. That includes Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, California and Oregon.
Once the CIC had its new name, Southam was already building a new website, http://cascadeindustrialcenter.com.
So far, the site includes video footage of the CIC area, including Arlington Municipal Airport, important numbers regarding acreage and accessibility, a map and contact form.
Southam said he is also developing an online calculator to let visitors put in data such as number of employees and square footage needed to generate the financial benefit of locating a new business to the CIC.
Next up, the firm is producing a video about the Highway 531 widening project.
“If you look at the negative feedback that we get from our campaign, 80 percent of the negative feedback all has to do with 531, all those people sitting out in traffic on 172nd,” Southam said.
“One of the challenges we all have is reminding people that in a couple of years that is going to change,” he said. “We’re working on some information now just to let people know that better things, better times are coming.”
Southam said contact information on the CIC website flows through Arlington, but officials with Marysville have expressed interest in partnering in the campaign through a cost-sharing arrangement, as well as data sharing.
Other agencies have been a little concerned that they have not been part of the marketing, Southam said.
“We’re just casually and very confidently explaining that it’s Arlington over the last five years that has made the financial investment in this, and our job is to represent the city of Arlington,” he told the council.
Councilwoman Debora Nelson credited Mayor Barb Tolbert and Councilwoman Jan Schuette for their leadership throughout the PSRC designation process.
Tolbert said it was a necessary step to create more jobs. She reminded that a decade ago there was an industrial center that had already developed around the airport without much direction, planning or vision.
“After the Oso landslide there was a poverty study done about Arlington, and we saw that one-third of the people in the city were living below the federal poverty level,” she said. “The only way we could correct that is to advocate to bring family wage jobs to our community, so that they could lift up their lifestyle. We’ve added 3,000 jobs over that past eight years, and we should all be proud of that.”