EDASC’s business retention, expansion efforts vital for job growth

During EDASC’s annual Economic Forecast Night in February, CEO John Sternlicht announced that aerospace company VT Volant was expanding to a new Burlington facility.

VT Volant, part of a large corporate organization based in Singapore, could have relocated or expanded to many locations outside Washington. EDASC and state officials were determined to keep the company growing here.

The multi-million-dollar expansion will bring an estimated 125 new family wage jobs to the county.

New businesses brought in through EDASC’s attraction efforts often get the biggest headlines, but most job growth locally and nationally stems from existing businesses, such as through VT Volant’s recent expansion.

Business expansion and retention requires strong planning and expertise, something EDASC is happy to provide in many forms.

We wrote about LAVLE yesterday as a recent example of business attraction. Now they’re looking at expanding to a factory to build battery cells. The expansion would create 400 to 500 jobs and EDASC is working with them to find a Skagit County location.

“We are hoping they expand here or somewhere close by in Washington,” Sternlicht said. “Attracting a company is the beginning of the relationship. Think of it as the wedding. Business expansion and retention is the marriage.”

EDASC works with local businesses of all sizes to ensure a healthy and thriving business community.

We’ve worked with large companies like PACCAR Technical Center and Hexcel to assist with workforce training and expansion, and also with medium-sized companies like Chinook Enterprises as they grow. We’re constantly helping small businesses with workshops, free business advising, and more, which we’ll discuss more tomorrow when we write about capacity building.

We’ve also helped companies with succession plans. For many owners, their company is their nest egg. EDASC in 2017 facilitated a change of ownership at Eddyline Kayaks, allowing founders Tom and Lisa Derrer to sell the company and retire knowing it was in good hands with trusted long-term employees, new investors and a new CEO.

The transaction was a win-win, as it ensured the kayak manufacturer and its jobs would remain in Skagit County, and business is booming for Eddyline.

One resource EDASC has been using to support expansion and retention is the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund. The resource provides grant funding for business expansion and training. EDASC most recently tapped into the fund to help VT Volant receive $200,000 for its expansion. EDASC is currently working with one other company to take advantage of this fund.

Lastly, we’ll talk about opportunity zones. This law creates an incentive to invest in economically distressed census-tracts by sheltering capital gains through new investments for job creation or housing.  Skagit County’s opportunity zones, of which there are four, were ranked No. 15 nationwide out of 306, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. There are two zones in Mount Vernon and one each in Sedro-Woolley and Anacortes. EDASC is already working with companies looking to locate or expand to one of Skagit County’s opportunity zones.