EDITORIAL: EDC must aim to sustain itself

Island County Economic Development Council should set a goal to become self sustaining as soon as possible.

Last week, the EDC received a $9,000 financial bailout for this year from county commissioners and a promise of $31,500 in additional money for next year.

The $9,000 was to tide the organization over until the end of this year, as it was unable to make ends meet in 2003 despite cutting the director’s position back to four days per week. This is on top of the $32,500 the county already paid to support the EDC. The additional $31,500 for next year was given to allow the EDC to embark on a new business recruitment program, which will entail more travel to pitch Island Country’s attributes to businesses looking to relocate.

Island County’s largesse was made possible when the Legislature designated this a “rural county” last session, making it eligible for a sales tax kickback with the money, some $400,000, earmarked for economic development. Supporters generally preached hard spending on sewers and water systems, not giving more money to the EDC.

The EDC has many supporters in Island County, but others wonder why precious tax dollars are being spent to support a pro-development organization. No similar spending goes to environmental groups. The Island County Rural Preservation Council, if such a thing existed, would likely be sent packing by the county commissioners if it requested taxpayer funding.

The EDC needs to increase its dues, up its number of dues-paying members, solicit more private funding, generate revenue with its own promotions and ultimately become self -sustaining.

And Island County, before parting with more tax money, should require proof that the EDC has been doing its job of producing more tax revenue than it consumes. If it can’t produce, there’s no sense keeping it around just because the name sounds good.

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