The Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County's Sean Connell (left) and John Sternlicht attended a March trade show in Paris to build relationships with international businesses.

MOUNT VERNON — During a recent trip to an international trade show in Paris, Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County staff met with representatives from several companies that could eventually expand here.

“Now, when they are ready to consider expanding, we will be a prime place for them to look,” EDASC Executive Director John Sternlicht said.

Business recruitment has become an emphasis for EDASC since Sternlicht was hired in 2015. In 2016, EDASC hired Business Recruitment Director Sean Connell to help spearhead that effort. Since then, the organization has made business connections at state, national and international levels.

Sternlicht said it’s unusual to see an economic development organization the size of EDASC with an international business expansion program, but said Skagit County is well suited for one.

For instance, the county has large manufacturing companies such as Janicki Industries and Hexcel, two ports and the Washington State University Mount Vernon Research Center.

“The research here, resources and our industries makes us a natural location to do this kind of global recruiting,” Sternlicht said.

He said most of the businesses EDASC has connected with are smaller ones that would fit well in the area. “They don’t all have to be huge manufacturing plants,” Sternlicht said.

EDASC does lots of research on businesses is could recruit, he said, but still there’s no substitute for meeting business leaders face to face.

The March trip to the JEC World 2017 tradeshow helped EDASC connect with companies from Europe and Asia that it may have had a hard time connecting with otherwise.

That fact that Sternlicht and Connell are fluent in other languages gave them a leg up at the show. Sternlicht speaks French, German and Spanish, and Connell speaks Japanese.

“That was all really helpful in talking to folks even if they did speak some English,” Sternlicht said. “And Sean (Connell) spoke with some companies from Asia.”

As for the future, Sternlicht said EDASC is working with several companies to find good fits in Skagit County. The process will take time because all of the businesses are at various stages of expansion.

“We’ve come away with several good prospects,” he said. “Some are long term, some are (closer) and some are near term. We’ll continue following up.”

— Reporter Aaron Weinberg: 360-416-2145, aweinberg@skagitpublishing.com, Facebook.com/byaaronweinberg

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