The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
Our organization has reached another milestone. We celebrated our 25th anniversary. Local leaders started rallying the community in 1985 to develop a new economic development organization that would help strengthen and diversify our local economy.
Efforts to create New Vision were spearheaded by the Yakima Chamber of Commerce. This group plus other private and civic leaders recognized that the Yakima Valley needed a single purpose organization that focused on building our local economy.
Most of 1985 was spent raising funds for the new organization. The New Vision Board got started in 1985, but it was not until 1986 that the organization really gained traction. Twenty-five years ago this month New Vision was actively searching for its first executive director.
Tim McGree was selected to run the organization. He and the Board of Directors set the stage for economic development within our Valley. At first New Vision mostly concentrated on recruiting new business to the region. Community leaders felt that the region could win if it simply brought a Boeing or Hewlett Packard to town. The development association used a variety of tactics to made businesses aware of Yakima County's assets for growing companies. New Vision also focused on preparation, recognizing that expanding companies ultimately needed industrial sites and facilities that were primed for development. Tim and the New Vision Board completed the association's first industrial site study during this time to focus the community's attention on readying real estate options.
McGree and the association had a major hand in recruiting companies like Alexandria Moulding, Darigold, and Wrap-Pack to the region. More importantly, Tim guided the organization to recognize that economic development also involves helping local companies grow. During his tenure, New Vision also helped Western RV, Trailwagons, MC Snack (now Seneca), Yakima Brewing, and John I Haas with expansion projects.
Not all the companies that our organization helped along the way are still with us today. New Vision has provided material assistance to 40 companies that are currently operating in our Valley. These companies have collectively added over 2500 jobs to the Valley economy. They have also invested over $260 million in plant and equipment. The annual economic impact of these business operations is over $500 million annually.
New Vision has accomplished a lot during its first 25 years. We appreciate the army of folks who have helped support our cause. Hundreds of people from all parts of the county have played an instrumental role in producing our results over time.
The job to diversify our local economy is not finished though. The current recession has taken a toll on our local economy and we must continue to focus on activities that create jobs and bolster our region's tax base. With the experience we have gained over 25 years and the still active army or supporters, our association is confident that we can continue to make an economic difference for our Valley.