Burien City Council begins hashing out economic development goals
by Jack Mayne
The Burien City Council spent much of a special meeting Monday night (July 28) beginning to hash out a plan for the city’s future economic development.
The Council had, in June, completed the process for an Economic Development Strategic Plan that began a new effort to define the City’s Economic Development Goals and Actions for the 2015-2016 biennial budget cycle and succeeding years.
Not just any business
The Council wants to stimulate business growth in the city, but as Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said, business that will improve and enhance the desire of people to move here and to shop and do other business at home.
“I think it is critical to say that we want to recruit businesses that are not just any kind of businesses but strategic, high quality businesses,” Berkowitz said. “I don’t think we want to drop all of our standards, ruin our environment, ruin our labor force and just get any business that wants to come here. I would just add high quality or something,” she said, noting it should be the Council’s overall goal to have “high quality” businesses.
Later she suggested the term be “socially responsible,” an idea that Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar agreed was a better description of what type of business the city was hoping to lure.
Councilmember Steve Armstrong said he opposed the addition of “high quality” because “how do you define that?” He said did want quality in Burien, just wondered at the definition.
Councilmember Nancy Tosta agreed it was hard to define, but “we want businesses that don’t harm the environment, we want businesses that encourage livable wages, we want businesses that create social cohesiveness.”
Berkowitz said she intentionally picked a nebulous word so the community could help define what they mean by it, “rather than the seven of us” defining it.
Councilmember Debi Wagner said all of the terms need to be in a glossary included with the policy that would contribute to the quality of life in the city.
“Some of these things are driven by market forces that we will have no choices about,” Wagner added, noting that goals are good “but what comes is what we get.”
Mayor Lucy Krakowiak suggested the goals should be wider than the wording in the draft proposal, “with a focus on businesses related to the arts and foods.”
Councilmember Gerald Robison said he liked keeping the words identifying arts and food in the policy to better “identify where we want the city to move and if we get too general with these goals, we are really not identifying any direction.”
Wagner suggested that there be two parts, one for attracting businesses to the city and another section that would work toward retaining businesses already here and seeking to keep and attract “socially conscious” business. They are different goals, need different approaches and should be treated as such.
Robison said there were similar and could be lumped together as an action plan.
Berkowitz and Tosta felt goals should be worded to do both retain and attract.
Robison suggested that a city might need businesses that are not socially responsible in order to be a city for all.
The council voted to include this wording in the program.
“Attract and retain socially responsible businesses through an active business retention and recruitment program.”
The next goals
The council then took up and tentatively accepted a goal that read, “Pursue major developments that have a positive, large-scale impact on Burien’s economic base.”
Also accepted was a goal that would, “Identify, support, and expand Burien’s base of small businesses that contribute to the culture, diversity, and resiliency of our community.”
Then they accepted a goal to “Enhance the branding and marketing of Burien as a family friendly community, built on our cultural, natural and economic assets.”
“Strengthen the consumer base in the City of Burien. Support the workers who make businesses possible as employees and the consumer base. Improve multi-modal transportation availability and choices. Explore opportunities for and enhance engagement and ownership in economic activities within Burien (e.g., cooperatives, value chains) that create more types of wealth and increase livelihoods.”