GSO Recommendations for Greater Tacoma Economic Development Strategies Proposed

“We have met the enemy and he is us.- Pogo, (Walt Kelly)With his main points slightly reminiscent of Rodney King’s plea of Why can’t we all just get along? and Pogo’s famous play on the words of Oliver Hazard Perry, a nationally respected economic development consultant presented an assessment this week on the Tacoma area’s ability to compete with similar western cities.Speaking to a packed house of greater Tacoma’s business and government leaders at the Tacoma Sheraton this week, Ross Boyle, president of Growth Strategies Organization, Inc., laid out the conclusions of his firm’s competitive analysis of the area’s business climate and economic development possibilities.GSO, a Vail, Colorado-based consulting firm conducted a review of the greater Tacoma area’s ability to compete with ten comparable cities in the western U.S. The study detailed the strengths and weaknesses of the area and offered suggestions for actions and delegation of responsibilities to make a growth strategy effective. The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce Foundation commissioned the GSO study on behalf of a number of private and public sector sponsors.Boyle covered a lot of ground during his presentation this week, but his main point had to do with perceptions – that of the residents and governments within Pierce County. The county suffers from a needless inferiority complex just as much as the Seattle area labors under an unfounded superiority complex, he said.According to Boyle, current relationships between local governmental entities are suffering from balkanization, with a divisiveness and misguided competitiveness keeping the area from realizing its overall potential.Boyle’s theme is that the important competition isn’t taking place between Tacoma and Fife, or Lakewood and unincorporated Pierce County, but between the greater Tacoma area and other urban areas from Spokane to Salt Lake City. He strongly recommended cooperation over competition, between municipalities within the county, as a means to greater benefits for all.A lack of thinking collectively holds the area back more than anything else, Boyle said.Boyle also stressed identifying the area’s communities and organizations representing it as belonging to the greater Tacoma area, instead of using the commonly hyphenated Tacoma-Pierce County designation. People nationwide – including business decision-makers – can better identify Tacoma than Pierce County, Boyle said. To support this identification, Boyle said organizations such as the Chamber and the EDB should alter their names to include the Greater Tacoma moniker.Conducting this analysis, Boyle said he was surprised at the outcome of the study – surprised the greater Tacoma area is as competitive as it is. The factor tipping the scales in the area’s favor – the large proportion of commuters leaving the county daily to work in the Seattle area. They are a resource that could prove valuable for businesses relocating here.It’s time to stand on your own two feet, Boyle said.”