Opinion

SOUNDOFF: EDC serves an important role

As president of Island County Economic Council, I would like to clarify many of the inaccuracies that were contained in your editorial Aug. 21. We feel that the editorial and subsequent correction gave readers an inadequate impression of our work.

The editorial writer left the impression that our commissioners’ contribution to the EDC’s budget had come from the dollars in the county’s general fund. Unlike other organizations considered by the commissioners, this contribution was cut entirely from the board’s discretionary account. Island County commissioners, in valuing our contribution, have only earmarked monies from an economic development project account to replace that contribution. The funds are the result of three years’ lobbying efforts for Island Count’s inclusion in rural legislation.

Your economic development council is a locally driven agency with community and business leaders directing policy and work plans for a staff of two. In 2002, confidential business assistance, marketing for recruitment, job creation and administration of the coalition chamber’s tourism activities are some of the council’s focused priorities. To date this year, over 70 clients from all corners of Island County received assistance in developing their business and start-up goals.

The editorial did acknowledge our coordination, on behalf of our port districts, of the Uniquely Whidbey Trade Fair and Home Show as one of our important contributions. It is significant, as over 125 small businesses use this annual event to showcase their products/services to more than 3,000 potential customers. Community groups also benefit from the added exposure. Countless volunteer hours are contributed along with paid sponsorships as we work to enhance the show each year as events such as this are complex and time consuming to coordinate. Promoting local business growth is one of our goals.

We have always built our relationships with other business organizations on the Island and have played an appropriate role as demonstrated by Kenmore Air’s scheduled service to the Oak Harbor Marina.

Workforce development continues to be an important issue for our board. Council members participate on tech prep school advisory committees and hold positions of academic leadership. Staff devote hours of volunteer time to facilitate job seeker workshops and chair committees that enhance employment and educational services to our residents.

Our council of all volunteers plays its role in looking county-wide for opportunities that will enhance our economy. Yes, we are a “laid back” organization as quoted in the editorial; but the reality is we cannot control internal business decisions, both positive and negative, to our area. We can only promote opportunities for the economy as a neutral, unbiased facilitator.

My fellow board members, who serve on the council by devoting their time and expertise, obviously feel that working to achieve a more diverse and vibrant economy is essential and not a “luxury” for the citizens of Island County.

If you want to learn more about EDC, call 678-6889.

Oak Harbor businessman Eric King is president of the Island County Economic Development Council.

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