Commission narrows economic obstacles
March 12, 2013
By Peter Clark
In a morning workshop meeting, the Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats Commission took a long look at Issaquah’s economic development on March 5.
Led by the animated efforts of Consultant David Cunningham, from Cunningham Enterprises, the commission, along with Mayor Ava Frisinger and developer Skip Rowley, came to the conclusion that it must more clearly present Issaquah’s path into the future.
“It is a response to the need for something other than a laissez-faire attitude to our business and our community,” said Frisinger, a strong proponent for thoughtful growth in the city. “Our prevailing sense in the past was there was not a lot of need to retain or attract business. As we became increasingly pressed by development, it became clear that in order to have a good economy, we had to be competitive.”
That competitive desire was the reason for the creation of the SWOT Commission. It exists to evaluative the most intelligent direction of growth within the recently approved Central Issaquah Plan and advise the City Council accordingly.
With that in mind, Cunningham led the commission through an exercise to evaluate in detail how the city arrived at its current state. The historical events in the past 200 years, local or not, that shaped the economy and culture were listed and placed on a large chart.
The group identified the era leading up to the 1960s as the Presuburban era and up to the 1980s as the Suburbanization of Issaquah. After the lifting of the business growth moratorium in 1986, the city saw the first wave of commercial development and a time of managed economic progress. After they covered the dot-com bust and the slow rise out of the 2008 recession, the focus of the meeting sharpened on the obstacles Issaquah would meet in the future.
The members of the SWOT Commission identified many things that could stand in the way of responsible economic growth: lack of affordable housing, lack of transportation capacity, Interstate 90 tolls, government funding, global competition. However, the largest topic that emerged regarded a discrepancy between the leadership and the public. Whether sharing different views or a level of mistrust, the commission expressed its need to bridge that gap.
“Some are not comfortable with where we’re going,” said Keith Niven, the city’s director of economic development. “There are doubters and skeptics with the path we’re taking.”
“The major block in terms of the future is that there’s a prevailing unclarity in the general population in the economic future and economic threats of this community,” Cunningham said. “If this is true, then we need to get this community clear about the economic threats of Issaquah.”
As the meeting adjourned, Cunningham pledged to clarify with Nevin how they would proceed with approaching the public, so the commission could advise the council.