Sims releases rural economy plan

King County Executive Ron Sims outlined a report on Jan. 5 that details the initial steps to strengthen the rural King County economy, according to a news release from the Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

The Rural Economic Strategies Report chronicles current economic conditions in rural areas of King County and identifies strategies and action items that can be implemented. Included in the report are examples of economic enhancement projects now under way as a result of the report, such as assisting small-scale lumber producers and partnering with rural communities to apply for federal grants to improve infrastructure.

"Preserving these rural lands, so close to the major urban center of the Pacific Northwest, creates both fantastic opportunities for interactions between rural and urban residents, including farmers markets that offer quality, fresh local produce, as well as challenges to support the long-term economic viability of those who work and live on these rural resource lands," Sims said during a recent tour of the Cherry Valley Dairy and Farm Market in Duvall.

Sims said King County identified six economic "clusters" as critical to the long-term economic viability of rural unincorporated King County. They are: agriculture, forestry, home-based businesses, tourism and recreation, rural towns and neighborhood centers and rural cities.

The report and accompanying rural economic strategies are based on the ideas, suggestions and recommendations that were presented by rural residents and stakeholders at a series of public meetings, as well as through personal communications. It is the result of a year-long comprehensive public process involving rural residents, farmers, foresters, business owners and rural stakeholder groups; and is one piece of a larger King County effort to continue working with rural residents to ensure the rural way of living is retained as an option into the future.

Sims noted that King County had already taken steps to strengthen rural economies in King County, including helping the Vashon Forest Stewards obtain three steel cargo containers to serve as a lumber kiln and storage for equipment and tools, and coordinating with the Snoqualmie Valley Governments Association to submit an innovative $3-million grant to the Federal Economic Development Administration for infrastructure improvements for the cities of North Bend and Snoqualmie and the Snoqualmie Tribe. (If the grant is approved, more than 2,000 new jobs would be created in the Snoqualmie Valley over the next eight years.)

Sims said new ideas were explored during an ongoing public dialogue with rural residents to strengthen the rural economy while preserving rural character in King County, including providing a commercial kitchen that can be used to produce value-added products such as fruit preserves or sauces; establishing a poultry processing facility to help small-scale poultry farmers expand their markets; and holding conferences for local farmers and chefs to provide chefs from some of the region's restaurants an opportunity to meet farmers and sample products.

Sims said he has directed his staff to begin work on the strategies and action items outlined in the report. He will also provide an annual progress report to the Metropolitan King County Council.

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