In 2016, the City of Anacortes, Port of Anacortes and Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County began a conversation about how to expand and promote the area’s maritime economy.
In 2017, the three entities came together and began conducting interviews with maritime stakeholders. They interviewed businesses. They interviewed service providers. They interviewed maritime manufacturers. Everyone who wanted a say in the strategic plan was included.
“Doing a strategic plan is important so you know where you’re going, but also just the process of talking to people, listening to people, getting them together to talk to each other is really valuable,” EDASC CEO John Sternlicht said.
In 2018, the three drafted the plan, and this year, they started to see it taking tangible shape. It’s the first time the trio had come together for a project of its size.
“For us as three agencies to come together and do one maritime strategic plan I think is unique,” Mayor Laurie Gere said, noting that in the past, the city might have worked a strategic economic plan that included but did not focus on maritime, or the port might have created one independently.
“I think that’s the most important part of it. The partnership between our three organizations that essentially is a signal to our constituents that we’re here to work for you,” said Dan Worra, the port’s executive director.
Now, eight months after the plan was adopted, goals are starting to be met.
One goal in the 20-page plan is to increase the number of recreational boating visitors to Anacortes, results of which Worra said can be seen through the growth of the Anacortes Boat and Yacht Show.
“We’ve grown from 100 boats for sale to over 300 boats this last year,” he said. “It’s just growing exponentially.”
Worra attributes the growth to hiring the Northwest Marine Trade Association, the group responsible for the Seattle Boat Show, to run the annual show and Anacortes itself as a “center for maritime excellence.”
“We are seeing the results of this strategic plan happen around the city,” Worra said.
Another is to establish Anacortes as a statewide and national center for maritime workforce development, education, and research and development.
Gere said the teamwork of the three entities in creating and enacting the strategic plan has gotten Anacortes noticed on a state level and a seat at the table for Gov. Jay Inslee’s Maritime Blue Advisory Committee, which is developing a statewide maritime strategic plan.
“It’s important that the folks in Seattle and Olympia know that Anacortes and Skagit County are an important part of the maritime sector. It doesn’t all happen down there,” Sternlicht said.
Next up is to continue to support the maritime industry in Anacortes and consider more opportunities for expanding opportunities with new technology as it comes.
“Most of the growth is going to be from existing companies, but it’s important to bring in new blood as well,” Sternlicht said.
Worra added that it’s important to take care of the industry that is already here.
“It’s a dynamic, incredible economic driver here at out doorstep,” Gere said. “We’re paying attention now and trying to get them what they need to be successful.”