EDASC staff already knew the parties involved when LAVLE, a maritime joint-venture company, contacted them in early 2018 about opening its headquarters in Anacortes.
The relationships had been built over several years, as is typical when courting businesses, EDASC CEO John Sternlicht said.
“Business attraction requires a time investment,” Sternlicht said. “You may be forging a relationship with someone not even in the market to do anything. Some of those leads eventually turn into businesses landing here.”
EDASC’s connections with LAVLE paid off as the marine battery company opened its headquarters in 2018 in Anacortes and a fabrication facility in January near the Port of Skagit, bringing dozens of well-paying jobs to the county.
This is a taste of business attraction. If it were a race, it’d be a marathon, not a sprint.
EDASC is the first point of contact for businesses and site selectors exploring opportunities to invest and establish operations in Skagit County. EDASC assists in identifying potential locations and funding sources, navigating permitting and regulatory processes, making necessary and beneficial connections, and researching and facilitating support services. EDASC works in close partnership with Skagit County, cities, towns, and ports, and the Washington State Department of Commerce in these activities.
At any given time, EDASC has about a dozen companies in the pipeline at various stages of interest. Most of those companies won’t end up here, but that’s expected.
There are many ways in which these leads materialize. As the local economic development organization, some companies will simply reach out directly to EDASC for site selection help. EDASC’s website plays a vital role in this stage, serving as a site selector’s first impression of the area while offering robust property search and census data tools.
The relationships might also come from past efforts. For instance, Sternlicht visited Nantes in France two years ago. Now a group from there is scheduled this spring to visit Skagit County with an interest in maritime and technology companies. Likewise, a Norwegian delegation of business owners is making a return trip this spring to Skagit County after visiting earlier this year. EDASC will continue to cultivate these relationships to attract good companies and good jobs to Skagit County.
Business attraction is also about finding the right businesses for the area. A huge theme park or auto manufacturer might not be a good fit for any number of reasons. On the other hand, Skagit County actively seeks appropriately-sized marine, advanced manufacturing and clean technology companies as well as agriculture-related opportunities because they fit the business landscape, create family-wage jobs and enhance our overall economy.
Some business owners may view new businesses as competition, but those new businesses generally help by bringing in new suppliers, customers and other business opportunities. EDASC is currently working with an aerospace company from the East Coast that’s looking to establish a manufacturing plant here. The new business could ultimately create a significant number of family-wage jobs, providing those workers more spending power locally.
The new company is also likely to work with existing Skagit County companies, lifting everyone in the community through increased opportunities and revenues.
In addition, bringing new blood into the local business landscape helps further diversity the Skagit economy, making us more resilient in the face of inevitable downturns in any single industry sector or business. New companies also tend to fill gaps in local supply chains, filling out a cluster even more and bringing new skilled workers and professionals to the area. All these benefits make business attraction a desirable – even necessary – staple of an effective economic development program.