Highline Mayors Say Local Economies Show Signs Of Improvement

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Burien Mayor Joan McGilton.

by Ralph Nichols

Things are looking better in three Highline communities, the mayors of these cities said recently during their annual updates to members of the Southwest King County Chamber of Commerce.

Burien Mayor Joan McGilton, Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton, and SeaTac Mayor Terry Anderson all pointed to signs that indicate these local economies are improving.

Despite ongoing uncertainty about the future of the all-but-vacant Town Square condominium/retail complex, Burien has “had some real successes,” McGilton said.

Instead of remaining empty, a lot of vacant retail spaces are sprouting businesses,” she noted. “New businesses are moving in all the time.”

These include the Car Pros’ Nissan dealership (“Can you imagine a new Nissan dealership in this economy?”), Grand Central Bakery, and a Ross clothing store (“We haven’t had a clothing store in Burien since Gottschalks closed”).

The Town Square complex situation is out of Burien’s hands, McGilton said. “Unfortunately, the FDIC got involved when the Great Recession came along. It’s of great concern to us,” despite the fact that “the city has no financial interest” in the two-year-old building.

“The good news is that we have Town Square, which is being used all the time,” she continued. “I have great hope that we’re moving in the right direction. Things are just really looking up for Burien.”

Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton said the fact that local sales tax revenue is “slightly better” over the last five months, after a steady decline in 2009-10, “is evidence that things have bottomed out.”

In addition to this encouraging news, Tukwila has seen a 22 percent increase in building permits and a 52 percent increase in new building value – and “371 new businesses are coming in,” Haggerton noted.

But Tukwila is “more than South Center,” he added. “Tukwila is a lot about parks and greenery and trails … a lot of people don’t know that.”

Focusing again on economic growth, Haggerton said groundwork will be underway “before long” to get Tukwila South ready for development.

Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton, left, and SeaTac Mayor Terry Anderson talk at the SWKCC Mayor's Luncheon.

Additional development activity is in progress along East Marginal Way, while “new developers are interested in … Tukwila Village at S. 140th Street and Tukwila International Boulevard.”

The city, also looking beyond its boundaries, is engaged in “an extensive process” of studying whether the Tukwila Fire Department should join the Kent Regional Fire Authority,” he said.

SeaTac Mayor Terry Anderson said “2010 was a good year for economic development” there, with “10,000 square feet of vacant space leased [and] new jobs were created.” These range “from retail to service to warehousing to hospitality.”

With an “upward trend in sales, lodging and property tax revenues … prospects for 2011 are bright,” Anderson continued.

Making community life even better is “a decline in the number and severity of crimes.” Contracting with the King County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services is “one of the best decisions we’ve made.”

And the “camaraderie with Burien is terrific,” she observed. Burien also contracts for law enforcement services with the sheriff’s office.

Anderson said she is “especially proud” of SeaTac’s parks – and also pointed with pride to the fiscal stability of the city, which has sustained no cuts in programs or services.

SeaTac has a “vision of redevelopment” that includes technological enterprises and tapping its potential as a transportation hub, as well as “collaborating with the Port of Seattle on development opportunities.”

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