New Regional Economic Development Plan Finalized
April 2, 2013 by Dave McFadden
Development groups and their partners in Yakima and Kittitas Counties recently put the final touches on a regional plan to strengthen the Central Washington economy. Over the last eleven months a volunteer steering committee has worked to develop goals, strategies and projects with the potential to advance the regional economy.
A CEDS steering committee (or similar group) will be charged with updating the plan annually. During these updates new strategies and projects can be considered and prioritized within the existing plan. Existing projects and initiatives that have been completed will also be removed from the plan.
The final plan can be viewed by clicking here. Specific parts of the plan can also be found in the box to the right.
The Kittitas-Yakima Economic Region is a beautiful region of lakes, rivers, and national parks with all four seasons. Hot and dry summers contrasted with cool and wet winters provide a climate suitable for a variety of interests and lifestyles. This diverse landscape of rivers to plains to forests and mountains is only rivaled by the diversity of its residents.
With a population of 286,000 and population density of 43.4 per square mile as of 2011, the Kittitas Yakima Economic Region can be described as a rural community. Similar to most rural areas, agriculture is an economic mainstay that fosters a consistent business climate built around agriculture. Unlike many rural communities, agriculture in the Kittitas Yakima Economic Region has a fair market value of over $1 billion dollars sold locally, nationally and internationally. Other significant industries or clusters in the region include health services, warehouse/distribution, manufacturing, alternative energy and tourism.
Some of the Kittitas Yakima region’s economic strengths include:
- its proximity to the major metropolitan area of Seattle and Portland markets
- a strong and diverse natural resource based economy;
- a concentration of higher education institutions; and
- an outstanding quality of life featuring great weather and outdoor recreation options.
Some of the region’s weaknesses include:
- Lack of family-wage employment opportunities
- Low K-16+ education attainment and corresponding occupational skill gaps
- Complacency towards growth and economic diversification
Despite some of the region’s challenges, the Kittitas Yakima area has enormous economic potential. The CEDS outlines six key goals to advance the regional economy.
Kittitas Yakima Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Goals (2013-2017)
Goal One: Support the Retention and Expansion of Regional Clusters and Industries
These broad objectives align closely with the Washington state’s economic development plan and workforce development plans for the region. Each of the goals has a number of accompanying actions and strategies that are expected to unfold over the following five years.
During the planning process local jurisdictions and nonprofit organizations were invited to submit projects that could create jobs, stimulate private investment or set the stage for future development. Twenty projects were submitted and the CEDS steering committee ranked the projects in terms of their readiness and potential to boost jobs and the regional economy.
2013 Top CEDS Projects for Kittitas-Yakima Region
1. Anaerobic Wastewater Treatment Facility for Food Processors — Port of Sunnyside Capital facility investment will double Port of Sunnyside’s wastewater treatment capacity allowing current and new industries to expand and site in Yakima County.
2. River Road Industrial Wastewater Line Extensions – City of Yakima The City of Yakima Industrial Waste Line would be extended to support food processors and related industrial land uses with high discharge characteristics.
3. Downtown Retail Business Incubator — Kittitas Economic Development Coalition Start Up Program: A new downtown Ellensburg retail incubator will house up to 15 early stage retail and service industry businesses. It will be considered a business expansion resource center offering events, classrooms and a commercial kitchen.
4. Yakima Cascade Mill Redevelopment — City of Yakima Funding will help design and support development of light industrial areas within the former Cascade sawmill site.
5. Hope Healthy Homes — HopeSource This project involves development, construction and operation of a modular home manufacturing assembly plant focused on producing affordable housing within the region.
6. Water Street Community Land Trust Project — Kittitas Yakima Valley Community Land Trust Thirteen affordable single family homes will be constructed through a public/private partnership. The homebuyer, who would not qualify for a traditional home purchase, will own the house and build equity, stability, and become a contributing member of the community.
7. Revolving Business Loan Fund Recapitalization — Rural Community Development Resources Capital is needed to replenish a successful regional revolving loan fund that supports emerging and established businesses within the region.
The CEDS also contains an implementation plan that identifies the key activities that will be addressed during 2013. This part of the plan identifies the parties responsible for implementation and specific outcomes expected from each initiative.
A number of evaluation measures have also been developed around each key goal and strategy. The CEDS Steering committee or its successor group will periodically review the plan’s implementation to determine whether key objectives and outcomes are being met over time. A critical part of sustaining economic development within the region is understanding which strategies are working and producing growth and economic diversification.