Skagit County’s smallest towns are getting more involved with the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County as they look toward future economic development and revitalization.
Last week, the Hamilton and Concrete town councils passed formal agreements with EDASC, agreeing to pay $200 and $500, respectively, for its services.
The Lyman Town Council will consider a similar agreement at its February meeting. The council this week showed an interest in passing it, town clerk Debbie Boyd said.
EDASC works to encourage business expansion, business recruitment and community growth.
John Sternlicht, executive director of EDASC, said while the county’s cities and the town of La Conner have regularly had agreements with and paid into the alliance, Concrete, Hamilton and Lyman have not.
East county officials said they are eager to work more closely with EDASC, and are glad to be able to pay into the alliance.
“It’s a gesture,” Concrete Mayor Jason Miller said of the town’s $500 agreement. “We can’t afford the level of service that EDASC is actually offering, but when we found out that the town had actually never paid EDASC it was quite embarrassing.”
EDASC offered the town support last year during the creation of the town’s first economic development plan, which was adopted in July.
“As we move forward executing the first five goals in the plan, we will be calling on them to help us out whenever we need that kind of help,” Miller said.
The plan includes creating a brand for the town, building a new town website, bringing reliable broadband internet to the area and developing a database of vacant properties.
“EDASC has a countywide reach, and as people reach out to them, it’s just wonderful to be formally on their radar so that we’re not forgotten,” Miller said. “We need that advocate in our corner to help us reach the goals that we’ve set.”
Hamilton doesn’t yet have specific projects involving EDASC, but that will likely change, Mayor Joan Cromley said.
“At some point when the urban growth area starts being developed ... a section of that has already been designated for business .... EDASC could play a role in helping us find businesses that are interested,” she said.
The town hasn’t seen much economic growth in recent years.
“There’s not a lot of business coming in because of our building issues, being in the flood plain,” she said. “It would be great to be able to use the urban growth area (north of Highway 20) and see that blossom.”
Urban growth areas are areas outside existing city and town limits that are designated for expansion.
Although development in Hamilton’s urban growth area could be years away, Cromley said EDASC offers a variety of programs that can help with local business development.
Her family has firsthand experience with programs that help small business owners with business plans and marketing skills.
“When we were living in Burlington we were selling birdhouses at craft fairs, and EDASC had a program for woodworking businesses,” Cromley said.
Having the agreement in place could benefit similar small businesses in town.
“They help not only the bigger, existing businesses, but they also have classes and things that help small, fledgling businesses, especially if you’re trying to run one out of your house, which can happen anywhere — including Hamilton,” Cromley said.
Sternlicht said he is excited to be formally expanding the alliance’s reach.
“We are very interested in doing work to help all of the county, including the towns and the unincorporated areas,” he said. “We’re glad that everybody is participating to a greater extent ... .”