A plan designed to link government, business, labor, and community leaders from four counties to create 100,000 new jobs in the central Puget Sound region by 2010 is closer to completion, according to an Aug. 23 presentation to the Tacoma City Council and Mayor Bill Baarsma.
”There are no guarantees that the Puget Sound region will be able to attract new businesses, or keep and grow existing firms,” said Bob Drewel, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Regional Council, which heads up Prosperity Partnership, a coalition of four counties (King, Pierce, Kitsap, and Snohomish) created last fall to assess the economic needs of the region and formulate a plan to create jobs. Drewel spoke during the council study session Tuesday. “We can’t trust our future to luck, we must act to make changes and investments to ensure that the Puget Sound region continues to prosper.”
To that end, Drewel told the mayor and city council that Prosperity Partnership was focused on six economic foundations that needed to be rebuilt to keep the region competitive:
Human Resources — Intensify efforts to ensure the availability of a vibrant, well-educated and adaptable workforce for today’s industry clusters and for new industries of the future, and to ensure good employment for area residents;
Technology — Provide the region’s businesses and entrepreneurs better access to the region’s research and development resources;
Access to Capital — Improve access by both small and large firms to both debt financing and equity financing, such as venture capital;
Business Climate — Ensure that the business environment continues to be shaped to meet the needs of society and enterprise;
Physical Infrastructure — Improve the region’s transportation infrastructure (highways, railways, air and sea ports) to support the movement of people and freight over these systems;
Quality of Life and Social Capital — Quality of life and social capital must be preserved and strengthened in order to attract new businesses and talent from around the world.
Drewel also commented that Prosperity Partnership is combining these strategies with five defined industry clusters — aerospace, clean technology, information technology, life sciences, and logistics and international trade — in order to drive economic wealth and create 100,000 jobs in those industries by 2010.
Drewel’s presentation met some criticism from Councilmember Tom Stenger, who expressed concern over efforts by political and business leaders to reduce the tax burden on businesses at the expense of the typical taxpayer. “This plan misses the boat as far as rising wages for families and average workers,” said Stenger. ”Not all people will have good jobs and good incomes. This plan focuses on industries where people are already well-paid. How about focusing on rising wages for average workers? I think you need to have more discussion on this.”
Councilmember Mike Lonergan cautioned entering a bidding war with other cities for new businesses, when the benefits don’t outweigh the costs of luring those businesses to the region. ”How do we keep from falling into a trap where we give too much to businesses?” he asked.
Drewel replied, “We need to accurately point out and display the benefits of those decisions.”
The presentation was part of a plan to visit as many community leaders as possible for feedback to finalize a strategy this fall, so that action could be taken during the next legislative session.