April 2018

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Opportunity Zones Have Potential to Bring Investment to Skagit County

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has designated five census tracts in three Skagit County cities as Opportunity Zones. The tracts are part of a new program enacted by Congress under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that aims to encourage private-sector investment into economically distressed U.S. communities.

Investors in Opportunity Zones may benefit from federal capital gains tax deferments and reductions. EDASC anticipates that Skagit County’s five newly designated Opportunity Zones will encourage investment in Anacortes, Mount Vernon, and Sedro-Woolley, and result in more family-wage jobs and expanded housing opportunities. EDASC will work with municipalities and potential investors to bring investment into these areas in coming years to take advantage of these new benefits.

Read more about how this may help these communities on our website.

Maritime Strategies Meeting With Governor Inslee

On April 18, EDASC CEO John Sternlicht met with Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Anacortes Mayor Laurie Gere, Port of Anacortes Executive Director Daniel Worra, San Juan County EDC Executive Director Victoria Compton, Washington State Governor's Maritime Lead, Joshua Berger, and Director of the NW Center of Excellence for Marine Manufacturing & Technology at Skagit Valley College, Ann Avary, to discuss Washington and Anacortes Maritime Industry Strategies!

EDASC strongly supports the growth and expansion of state and local maritime industries. Marine manufacturing and other related sectors support living wage jobs and a healthy economy. EDASC has been working with the City and Port of Anacortes in a strategic plan for maritime, that will be rolled out soon. This plan will mesh with Governor Inslee's statewide maritime plan.

Supporting Economic Resiliency in Puerto Rico

During the week of April 22, EDASC CEO John Sternlicht spent a week of volunteer service working with the Puerto Rico Technoeconomic Corridor (PRTEC) in Mayaguez, PR. This was arranged through the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), of which Sternlicht is a board member. IEDC has been providing disaster recovery assistance in many areas around the Untied States primarily by sending experienced economic development professionals to aid with strategic planning, identifying needed resources, and creating resilient systems.

In order to assess the current situation following Hurricane Maria last fall, Sternlicht met first with PRTEC Executive Director Nelson Perea and his staff. PRTEC covers the western part of the island, 17 municipalities in all. It focuses not only on workforce issues with a large grant from the US Department of Labor, but also boasts a start-up accelerator for between 10 and 15 new businesses, several of which met with Sternlicht. In addition, on April 26  PRTEC inaugurated “Finca Explora” (“finca” means farm), an accelerator for small agribusinesses and value-added growers and networks located on 125 acres of farmland in the city of Isabela. This property, recently donated by Monsanto, also includes buildings for offices, research, production and storage facilities. Sternlicht also met with PRTEC Board members, university officials, government officials, and various business owners and entrepreneurs to explore new ways to sustain the organization and its important work.

Puerto Rico’s macroeconomic issues long pre-dated, but were multiplied by, the hurricanes of last September. PRTEC is working towards greater commercialization of innovations coming out of the engineering and agriculture departments at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, but budget cuts and greater teaching loads for faculty will impede that progress. Sternlicht will continue to assist PRTEC wherever possible after filing his report. “I was pleased IEDC sent me to PRTEC, and that I was able to provide support and guidance." said Sternlicht. "More than that, I learned a great deal too, that I took home with me. Even that far away, our organizations and communities have many things in common!”

Spotlight on Skagit's Innovations and Business Community

Thank you to the 74 organizations that operated booths at Spotlight on Skagit on April 19! This event exceeded EDASC expectations. This year, we were able to increase the number of companies and organizations participating, and hope to make this event even more successful in future years. We have heard from many exhibitors and attendees about their experiences and expectations around Spotlight on Skagit. If you have any suggestions, please send them to

More photos can be found on our Facebook page.

Thank you to our Title Sponsors, Interpreting Technology and Swinomish Casino and Lodge for your ongoing support of EDASC and Skagit County's business community.

Innovation Speakers’ Forum Highlights Groundbreaking Skagit County Businesses

This year EDASC expanded Spotlight on Skagit’s focus to showcase Skagit County’s world-class businesses and workforce development assets through the new Innovation Speakers’ Forum.  The purpose of the Forum was to showcase Skagit County businesses conducting innovative projects, research, and development that are changing the world and the way people do business.  Modeled after similar forums held at leading industry trade shows, at which executives offer a brief overview of their business activities and engage in discussion with a broader audience, the Forum aimed to introduce people in Skagit County and the broader region to some of the most exciting and varied business activities taking place in our community.
Speakers at this inaugural Forum included Adam Foy, Vice President of Business Development for Skagit Valley Malting; Jorge Lozada, Senior Project Engineer at the PACCAR Technical Center; Sara VanTassel, President of Janicki Bioenergy; and Andries Breedt, Owner and Chief Engineer of Breedt Production Tooling and Design. Foy discussed Skagit Valley Malting’s innovative processes and linkages with world-leading grain research and development taking place in Skagit County.  Lozada provided an introduction to PACCAR’s R&D work in Skagit County including in product development aerodynamics, powertrain integration, autonomous vehicle advanced driver assistance systems, and the Super Truck II program.  VanTassel presented on Janicki Bioenergy’s groundbreaking innovations in sanitation, waste treatment, and nutrient recovery through the company’s Omniprocessor, Firelight Toilet, and VRD Process.  Breedt, whose business recently expanded into Skagit County, introduced BPT Design’s capabilities and projects, including development of the machine being used to install the new glass windows and panels on Seattle’s Space Needle, which was designed at the company's new La Conner R&D facility.  These presentations drew strong, engaged audiences and substantive discussion with the presenters on these innovative activities.
EDASC was honored that these world-changing Skagit County businesses could share their stories at Spotlight on Skagit, and looks forward to coordinating future editions of the Innovation Speakers’ Forum.  For more information, contact Sean Connell, EDASC Director of Business Development and Global Competitiveness, at

Please find videos of the presentations here.

Birds of Winter: Zero Year Review

EDASC helped champion Bird of Winter's “zero year” with each of the area chambers of commerce in an effort to stitch together birding-based activities and interests that would provide meaningful and intentional experiences for both local and visiting bird watchers.
The town of La Conner hosted a birding expo on a weekend in January that resulted in the best weekend of sales in local restaurants, shops and hotels on record, with nearly 500 participants, 70% of whom traveled from out of the area to attend.
The Mount Vernon Downtown Association hosted a Saturday art walk with a birds-related theme that was also seen as a wildly successful and low-cost solution to getting people downtown.
Throughout the three month season, the Birds of Winter website and Facebook page promoted bird-themed activities as well as enrichment activities including photography and nature hikes for likeminded or “gateway to birding” activities.
Taking into consideration the successes and critiques during the zero year, the steering committee of the festival has identified the following objectives for Birds of Winter 2019:

GOAL 1: Bring together the elements of a successful birding experience (conservation, respect for property rights, and economic development).
GOAL 2:  Identify and develop action plans to mitigate the negative impacts migrating birds and the bird watching public may have on local farms.
GOAL 3: Engage and inform the local population on issues related to birds, habitat, and conservation.
GOAL 4: Encourage, organize, and promote events and experiences related to winter birds and related activities in Skagit County.
GOAL 5: Organize Birds of Winter efforts in such a way as to promote efficiencies, equitable participation, and optimize ongoing and emerging partner opportunities (e.g. integrate Birds of Winter into existing and emerging tourism and outdoor recreation efforts across and throughout Skagit County)
GOAL 6: Protect birds from negative human interference and promote conservation of bird habitat.   

The Power of the Latino Leadership Initiative

The Latino Leadership Initiative (LLI) seeks to empower young Latinos to put them on a path to become leaders in their lives and their communities. In its fifth year, thirty students will graduate from the program from Skagit Valley College, Everett Community College and Edmonds Community College, which is a tribute to the overwhelming cooperation, engagement, acceptance and vision of our interactive communities. All of the sessions are experiential, with the focus on self-awareness and self-knowledge.  Multiple speakers offer mentorship and insight into topics most relevant to our participants, such as John Kim, Executive Director, Seattle Jobs Initiative (Preparing to Work in a Changing World) and Dr. Antonio Sanchez, Central Washington University (The History of Latinos in Washington State).

More information on our website.

Golf Tournament Team Registrations Open - July 20

This is Skagit County's golf tournament of the year! Over 200 golfers play in a scramble format where 50+ teams of four compete for the tournament trophy. Hole sponsors delight and entertain at nearly every turn with games, snacks, drinks, freebies, and fun!

Registration for a team of 4 costs $600. Teams who register and pay before June 15th will receive a discount of $100 and their choice of starting hole. Each golf team of 4 receives golfer goodie bags, green fees, golf cart, lunch, and entry to the awards dinner immediately following your fun-filled day of golf.

Sponsorships are available! Please contact Colleen Smiley at Creative Celebrations.

Find more information and forms for registration on our website.

Leadership Skagit Wants You!

Have you considered participating in the Leadership Skagit program? The intensive 9-month curriculum combines leadership skill development with in-depth information, study and discussion on topics critical to the future of our region.  Participants work as a part of a small team to plan, organize and complete a service project that will provide a lasting benefit to our community.  Leadership Skagit alumni continue their leadership journey by working on alumni community projects and serving on non-profit boards, planning commissions and task forces.

The application for the Class of 2019 is now live on and we are offering an early-bird discount for applications received before May 15, 2018.

Skagit County Economic & Employment Data Update

According to the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD), Skagit County’s unemployment rate was 5.8% in March 2018 (not seasonally adjusted).  This is a decrease from the unemployment rate of 6.3% in February 2018, and no change from March 2017 unemployment levels. Skagit County’s unemployment remains higher than the state unemployment rate of 4.8% (seasonally adjusted) and national rate of 4.1% (seasonally adjusted) in March 2018. 

Skagit County’s civilian labor force totaled 58,999 in March 2018, which was a decrease of 0.25% year on year. 

More detailed information on current employment in Skagit County is available through ESD, the Northwest Workforce Council, and EDASC's website.
Copyright © 2018 Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County, All rights reserved.

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