Oak Harbor renews development position
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News-Times Co-editor
January 15, 2013 · 3:22 PM
Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley appointed a planner to be the city’s part-time economic development coordinator, a position that disappeared nearly 10 years ago.
Dudley said he’s identified economic development as his No. 2 priority, behind public safety. As a result, he appointed Senior Planner Ethan Spoo to the recreated position; Spoo will divide his time between his planning and economic development duties.
“He’s passionate about economic development,” Dudley said.
Spoo said he will spend the next six months creating a working strategy for economic development in the city. He will be working closely with the mayor’s ad hoc committee on economic development and various City Council standing committees.
“We’ll really be focusing on bite-size projects that we can knock out in the next three to five years,” Spoo said.
In contrast to the city’s economic development exercises of the past, Spoo said the focus of his work will likely be on retaining current businesses and helping them grow.
“The philosophy is really starting to change in economic development towards growing existing businesses, as opposed to catching the big fish,” he said.
Spoo is currently working on a needs assessment and profile to gather information about the city’s economy. He said the information will help him understand where the city’s economic strengths and weaknesses lie, and where his strategy should be focused.
Spoo stressed that he will be focusing on the entire business community, not just certain areas of the city.
Spoo has more than a decade of planning and economic development experience. He worked for the Portland Development Commission and as a consultant for an economic development firm.
“I worked for the private sector, so I’ve seen that side of things,” he said, “which I think is important.”
Dudley said the creation of the new position will be cost neutral. He said the planning department’s workload has decreased due to the economic downturn, so the planners will be able to absorb the loss of half a planner without hiring anyone new.
Krista James-Blackburn previously held the position of economic development coordinator for about eight years, but the position went away in 2003 after she found a job elsewhere.