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Tacoma: City unveils economic development strategy

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Feb. 12, 2013 at 3:24 pm with No Comments »
February 12, 2013 3:24 pm

Tacoma’s new economic development director laid out the city’s plan for a growing economy Tuesday – a five-year guide with overarching goals that includes a more narrowly focused 18-month “action plan.”

City of TacomaBut to meet Tacoma’s economic ambitions, Ricardo Noguera stressed to the City Council that the city can’t go it alone.

“The implementation of this document – its success is based … on the partnerships we develop across this city,” Noguera said.

The plan – what Noguera and other Tacoma officials referred to as a “strategic framework” – incorporates eight areas of focus where the city will aim investments and strengthened partnerships with other government entities and private-sector firms.

The long-term target areas include the central city, Dome and Brewery Districts; development services to small businesses and entrepreneurs; waterfront development; Port of Tacoma and industrial districts; business district and neighborhood revitalization; workforce development; arts, culture, tourism and hospitality initiatives; and creating a more professional and business-friendly government.

Within the larger framework, a more focused “action plan” targets a subset of specific projects “to be reviewed, updated and adjusted periodically” based on market conditions, Council priorities and other economic factors, Noguera said.

The sub-plan targets five goals: Attracting, expanding and retaining businesses in Tacoma; developing services for small businesses and entrepreneurs; developing international business relationships; developing and revitalizing downtown; and revitalizing neighborhoods.

For each target area, Noguera provided more detailed goals and model examples. In the small business development area, for instance, he talked about building partnerships with local colleges, nonprofits and private sector firms to create an array of training programs, services and workshops for business owners and entrepreneurs to help with financing, contract procurement, start-up development and other issues.

Ideas for building international business relationships include working with Tacoma’s sister cities around the globe to move beyond cultural exchanges toward developing foreign investment opportunities, he said.

And, the revitalizing downtown goal involves more proactive marketing strategies – in everything from finding a tenant at the RussellBuilding to promoting investment opportunities on the Foss Waterway and in the Dome and Brewery Districts.

David Schroedel, metropolitan development director for the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, said he appreciated the plan for recognizing the need for building partnerships and for providing “measurables.”

“The two-year action plan gives specifics that let us measure if progress has been made,” he said. “Did these things get done? It’s either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’”

The plan has been months in the making, with the council’s Economic Development Committee offering input that led to several changes. Mayor Marilyn Strickland noted members intend to discuss the plan further during the council’s annual retreat next month.

“As we go forward, we understand that partnerships are crucial,” Strickland added. “We can’t do this alone.”

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