By Jack Mayne 
After a long discussion, the Burien City Council at Monday evening’s (Feb. 26) Study Session decided not to immediately join a new county-wide economic development program but to ask the city’s Business and Economic Development Partnership group for its analysis.
In other action, the Council heard an annual report on the partnership contract with Discover Burien, which said it is developing a new foreign language outreach programs.
New Economic panel
The City Council is being asked to invest $2,500 into a new “Regional Economic Development Alliance” to replace the Economic Development Council of Seattle-King County (EDC), for which the city pays “about $5,000 a year,” said Andrea Snyder, the city’s Economic Development Manager.
After a lengthy discussion, the Council said it would wait a while to get more details on the program and would seek comment from the BEDP, its economic development advisor group.
Because business groups don’t want to put money into the large number of economic development groups in the area, Snyder said, it means the EDC is “very underfunded” and has “only a quarter” of the money “that peer organizations across the nation (have).”
Snyder spoke glowingly of the new organization, and she urged the Council to sign on with the new group.
That would mean adding the $2,500 it is now seeking from Burien to the $5,000 paid to EDC. Because the EDC is apparently going out of business by July 1, the new Regional Economic Development Alliance (REDA) likely would collect funds paid by Burien to the predecessor group.
“The current economic development organization system eco system is a bit fragmented, witch has led to a lack of competitiveness for our region,” Snyder told the Council on Monday.
The proposed new group maintains that “leading private sector companies have voiced dis-satisfaction with the EDC and have led an effort to create a new economic development organization that would extend into Pierce and Snohomish counties,” the proposed group’s proposal to Burien says.
“I know that I speak from my experience working in economic development that most of us cities felt like we haven’t gotten a lot out of the EDC in terms of job leads,” said Snyder, formerly economic development officer in Issaquah. “The idea of looking at what could be a replacement or what could be the next step is something we are interested in so that we could make sure that we are getting the most for our region.”
Among others supporters of the proposed new Regional Economic Development Alliance (REDA) that have voted to join it, include the Port of Seattle, the Snohomish County economic development organization and the City of Tacoma, all who have told Burien they expect to join new regional group.
“REDA anticipates the private sector will commit another $500,000 before July,” the proposal to the city claims, and it plans to raise $1 million on top of the $1 million it has already raised.
Burien’s Snyder says the new agency would focus on attracting business to the region, increase “the region’s competitiveness and targeting prospects to attract” plus add to direct foreign investment in the entire Puget Sound region.
Pierce County says no
Curiously, Pierce County rejected the new organization and Deputy Mayor Austin Bell asked why.
Snyder said Pierce County believed “Seattle is going to take up all the time and attention and that Seattle will unfairly advantage from REDA and they want to maintain their own organization.”
Snyder said that was an option, noting that the concerns Pierce County has about Seattle taking over effective control of the group are similar to those expressed by Burien before it entered the Economic Development Council (EDC).
Krakowiak said she didn’t see much difference between the groups now. Do we get a voice?
Snyder said that was a “fair criticism” because there are so few details yet available about the new REDA, Councilmember Nancy Tosta agreed with Krakowiak that it might be better to wait and see what the costs and benefits will be and then consider joining the new economic policy group.
Edgar wanted to know about other potential area members.
Staff from the cities of Tukwila and SeaTac are in favor of joining the new REDA, Snyder said, but she said she has not heard about decisions from Des Moines and Normandy Park.
Discover Burien language outreach
Daniel Keane, Discover Burien Board President, gave the Council its annual report with Anne Thompson, Outreach Coordinator.
Keane said that the organization will reach out to present and former members to see how they can improve “how we can be stronger and better for the businesses in our community and so we can retain those as a part of a vibrant business community.”
He said Discover Burien is concerned about the language barrier and is creating a “language barrier outreach program to encourage the different speaking folks of our community to participate in local activities.”
There currently is Spanish translation for its social media “already up and running” and is “looking at” a Vietnamese translation program, with an an eye toward a multilingual website.
Economic Development Manager Andrea Snyder said a new contract with Discover Burien will let the organization take over some functions, for instance, the downtown flower baskets will now be handled by volunteers, relieving the city public works staff of the duty. Also banners on SW 153rd Street that have been “temporary” for “seven to ten years” and that “they are little bit past temporary now.”
Discover Burien is working on “changing and upgrading” the banners and new ones will be up soon, Snyder said. Discover Burien can draw on partnerships with the community to do the work. The city budget for Discover Burien for 2018 was $115,000 “and we’ve added just shy of $18,000 to that contract,” Snyder said.Facebook Twitter Subscribe