Economic Development Board raises $2.1 million

“The Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County (EDB) announced it received $2.1 million in pledges in its Competitive Edge campaign to raise $3.5 million for the agency’s budget over the next five years. The announcement was made during the EDB’s annual board meeting held Friday at the Sheraton Tacoma Hotel Convention Center.The EDB is planning aggressive business and high-tech recruitment to bring capital investments ($500,000,000), and new jobs (15,000) to the area over the next five years. They’ll also continue to be strong collaborators in the development of a regional action plan for economic development that includes private partners, cities, the county, and the Port of Tacoma.The keynote speaker for the event was Clifford Rudolph, chairman and chief executive officer of Advanced TelCom Group (ATG), who talked about changes in the way the nation communicates, and how advanced computer technology will continue to bring about innovations.It was through the efforts of the EDB that the ATG franchise was brought to Tacoma in 1999. That move resulted in dozens of new jobs for the city, more than $11 million in local capital investment and the enhancement of the area’s telecommunications infrastructure.ATG, based out of Santa Rosa, Ca., is now a local exchange carrier that provides Internet, local telephone, long distance and data services. Here in Tacoma and Pierce County we found a well-educated, technology-oriented and spirited population with very competitive needs, and a desire to improve the infrastructure, Rudolph said.Tacoma’s aggressive investment in the CLICK! network was a bold statement. It said to us that you understood and have committed through infrastructure an ability to attract even more jobs and revenue to the region thus enhancing Pierce County’s overall economic vitality.Rudolph added that the company moved quickly to marshal their resources to get connected as CLICK’s first partner.Since January of 1999, he said, we’ve invested more than $20 million in capital expenditures, laid 60 miles of fiber, provided 30 high-skilled jobs, and renovated a building in the core of downtown Tacoma.After the meeting, Tacoma Mayor Brian Ebersol talked about how pleased he was to hear Rudolph’s praise of Tacoma’s commitment to become a city embracing high-tech practices.We went against public opinion to invest in Click! for $100 million, Ebersol said. We went against the grain at that time and it turned out to be visionary. I’m glad to hear people outside confirm that the $100 million in high-speed telecommunications investment was a gutsy move at the time. There were far-sighted people at Tacoma Public Utitlities and in the city who understood the importance of high-speed communications; knew it would be essential to have the technological edge in the future. It was the biggest municipal investment we know of in high-speed fiber optics. “