MOUNT VERNON — The Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County hosted a meeting Wednesday detailing its strategy to help grow local industries through its economic cluster initiative.

Economic clusters are groups of local industries, such as value-added agriculture or maritime, that meet regularly to discuss ways to grow business and solve problems.

The meeting Wednesday at Skagit Station was the first joint cluster meeting, providing overviews of issues and goals from the 13 clusters.

About 70 people attended.

During a presentation, EDASC’s Andrew Miller outlined the goals of each cluster.

One goal identified by most clusters was to fix Skagit County’s housing shortage.

“Companies are telling me, ‘I could grow but can’t get people to come here,’” Miller said. “I’ve heard of applicants turning down jobs here after discovering they can’t find a place to live.”

Another popular goal was to promote workforce training.

Miller also highlighted ideas from individual cluster groups to improve business.

One idea that’s further along is a winter bird festival that would take place between January and the Daffodil Festival in March.

“We have world-class birding here,” Miller said. “We want to see what that could mean for our community.”

He said the festival could happen this winter.

Other ideas include building an agriculture business park and opening dikes for public use.

Miller said the latter is controversial, but it could be a huge boon for tourism.

The next step for EDASC is to create action teams for each cluster to tackle different objectives.

The action groups will meet through the summer, with cluster meetings resuming in September.

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

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