Committee stacks agenda high

POULSBO — The city of Poulsbo’s newest committee hit the ground running Wednesday night.

The Economic Development Committee (EDC), a group spearheaded by Council Member Kim Crowder, had its inaugural meeting, joining the ranks of the council’s five other committees, each of which meet in an informal setting to discuss issues, hear from citizens and make recommendations to the city council as a whole.

The committee was created to focus on strengthening tourism, creating jobs and advance economic growth in Poulsbo. Citizens are encouraged to attend.

This is not the first EDC to become one of the city’s various working groups. The first, formed in 1999, eventually became a part of the Economic Development Council, a forerunner to the Kitsap Economic Development Committee. Council Member Ed Stern said the city’s first EDC focused on telecommuting and was successful and he’s glad economic focus is being brought back to the city level.

Each of the committee’s members, council members Becky Erickson, Crowder and Stern, have worked in the private business sector, a facet Stern said makes the group’s efforts uniquely beneficial.

“This is not your typical public sector ‘we’re here to help,’” he said. “We’ve been in the trenches.”

The committee created partnerships with some of the area’s major agencies. Erickson will serve as liaison to the Port of Poulsbo, Crowder to the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association and Stern to the Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce. Stern, as well as Erickson, already serves as liaison to the Suquamish Tribe, prompting the council member to comment even at its beginnings the new committee will be one of the most well connected.

“We’re really organized to hunt for bear right out of the gate,” he said.

Also on hand for the inaugural discussion were Port Madison Enterprise’s Jim Snead, Port of Poulsbo commissioner Arnie Bockus and Kathy Cocus of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance. The council talked in part about creating an advisory board out of those and other city and county leaders.

Crowder said a major to-do on her list is visit the city of Leavenworth to better understand its successful tourism economy and possibly follow their model.

“What fascinates me with Leavenworth is they have an event practically every weekend,” she said. “What are they doing that we’re not doing?”

Crowder also said she’d like the committee to be a sounding board for area citizens to express the economic needs they see in the community. If a certain service isn’t available in the area and is desired, the committee can help to encourage that type of industry to come to the area, creating a win-win situation. Putting the word out on what the city’s business regime is lacking and fostering beneficial growth is something she hopes to accomplish.

Stern said both the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes are economic forces, and he looks forward to continuing to invest in relationships with them. Instead of just working to attract economy from larger areas, Poulsbo should also focus on its two developing neighbors.

“We have two major economic engines already functioning here,” he said.

Erickson added zoning and downtown parking to the committee’s list of issues. Whether it be parking structures, paid parking or improvements to Third Avenue, she urged her fellow committee members to keep the assessment of the parking problem forefront.

“The parking situation in downtown Poulsbo has reached somewhat of a critical mass,” she said. “I think we need to start thinking about real policy adoptions.”

Above it all, Erickson said the committee is one that must keep clear lines open with the public.

“The worst thing we can do is keep the public out of the loop,” she said. “We need to be really open about what we’re doing here.”

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