City creates commission to attract, retain businesses

February 14, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

City leaders continued the latest push to bolster economic development Feb. 6 and created a municipal Economic Vitality Commission — another piece in the effort to attract entrepreneurs to Issaquah and retain existing businesses.

City Council members formed the commission to handle a marketing plan to attract businesses, consider opportunities to improve signage options for merchants, review municipal permitting and inspection processes, and produce annual report cards on strategies recommended in the 2005 Economic Vitality Plan. The commission is expected to offer regular updates to the mayor and council.

The idea for a commission stems from a goal council members set at a May 2011 retreat to outline priorities for 2012.

“I consider this commission a balanced approach to the vital economic health of the city while safeguarding our unique environment here in Issaquah,” Council President Tola Marts said. “I also really see that it dovetails with recent and planned development efforts in the valley and in the heart of the city.”

The legislation calls for city officials to recruit nine members from the finance, legal, property development, retail, restaurant and tourism fields. Some members should bring experience in economic recruitment and city planning to the commission.

Get involved

Citizens interested in applying for the Economic Vitality Commission — or another board or commission post — can pick up applications at the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 130 E. Sunset Way, or download the form at The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Feb. 29.

Call the clerk’s office at 837-3000 to learn more about the appointment process.

“Now, we just have to make sure that this kind of permeates everything that we do going forward and keeping this in the back of our heads — that the things we’re doing are making it easier for people to do business in Issaquah and be more successful here,” Councilman Mark Mullet said.

Councilwoman Eileen Barber, a former downtown merchant and past chamber president, described a stronger economic development effort as a long-term goal.

In November, City Administrator Bob Harrison announced a plan to reassign Keith Niven, the longtime Major Development Review Team manager, as economic development director and to hire economic development managers. The economic development team is meant to assist the Economic Vitality Commission.

Councilman Joshua Schaer questioned the commission structure before the council decision. In a study released last year, Seattle consultant Moss Adams called for city leaders to slim down the 13 established boards and commissions to relieve employees’ workload and consolidate some functions.

“I don’t want to see us reinvent the wheel later and now have to come back potentially and add new duties to this commission or take away duties if we end up restructuring the entire board and commission structure for the city,” he said.

Officials said the proposed restructuring is not expected to impact the Economic Vitality Commission.

The council applauded the commission decision as the latest step to enhance economic development.

“This is a great way to kick the year off,” Councilman Fred Butler said.

Issaquah Chamber of Commerce CEO Matthew Bott said the organization intends to act as a partner for the city on business retention, economic development and tourism promotion.

“We believe that this will absolutely support our shared goal of community prosperity, regional competitiveness, economic diversity in our business portfolio, and really optimize our opportunities to be competitive and successful,” he said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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