MOUNT VERNON — About 400 people gathered Thursday at McIntyre Hall for the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County’s Economic Forecast Night, where presenters spoke on the potential for cross-border business and tourism opportunities in Skagit County.
Christopher Lawless, chief economist for the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, encouraged Skagit County business owners to leverage investment opportunities in Vancouver, British Columbia.
He said people are immigrating to Canada rather than the United States due to Canada’s more lenient immigration policy.
People immigrating to Canada from Asia want to invest, Lawless said, and Skagit County’s close proximity to the border puts it in a good position to tap into that market.
“Global opportunities may be just next door,” Lawless said. “I’d encourage you to get up there and explore.”
Lawless also projected that U.S. tax cuts may encourage Canadian companies to move to the U.S. In order to increase cross-border business, Lawless said the U.S. and Canadian governments will need to negotiate ways to make transporting goods across the border quicker and easier.
Rida McClenny, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, spoke about Skagit County’s potential as a tourism destination.
With abundant outdoor activities, McClenny said the county is an ideal area for what she calls “the experience era.”
“The 90 million millennials who are out there traveling, they don’t want to buy a new refrigerator,” McClenny said. “They want do something that their friends haven’t done, that their family hasn’t experienced before.”
Skagit County already has the type of experiences people are looking for, McClenny said, but it lacks the branding to attract them.
“The pristine, precious outdoor experience that you have, that is gold,” she said. “You have the transportation network, and what really brings it all together is to put together a brand of what and how you present yourselves to the world.”
Washington is the only state without a state-funded tourism office, McClenny said, which leaves it up to businesses and local governments to create cohesive branding.
“You are your own best advocate,” McClenny said of Skagit County businesses. “The key is a unified vision.”
John Sternlicht, CEO of EDASC, said Skagit County is well situated to harness opportunities in global investment and regional tourism.
“I think there are lots of great opportunities in inter-county cooperation in recruitment, tourism and infrastructure,” Sternlicht said. “I think we can do so much more together. Striking out on our own for tourism promotion as a county is a wonderful opportunity and we have an amazing product to promote.”