Council branding

Guest Columnist

In his editorial last week, Jim McKiernan raised several questions about the Snoqualmie City Council’s intent to invest more aggressively in economic development. He had three primary concerns First, “buy-in” – don’t move forward until all the stakeholders get on board. Second, cooperate – this should be a Valley effort, not a Snoqualmie effort. And third, “buy local” – why waste money on an expensive consultant when we have talent in the Valley to put a program together?

On the first point, I could not agree more about “buy-in.” Every economic, tourism, branding and revitalization expert will tell you that a well-developed public/private partnership is an essential ingredient for success. Mr. McKiernan implored the council to postpone plans until we “gather community stakeholders and hold a forum on what it is we want to do.” OK … but exactly how will that be accomplished?

Should stakeholders represent just Snoqualmie and/or the entire Valley? Will one meeting/forum suffice, or will it take several? Who will organize this process to see that it is carried through? Who should represent the public’s interests vs. business interests? Is Mr. McKiernan volunteering, or suggesting that council members facilitate this process?

To many, past efforts have produced little due to the lack of appropriate resources. The council’s and mayor’s “buy-in” goals are the same as Mr. McKiernan’s. We simply want to be assured that the initial process he is demanding has the means to be as successful and productive as possible.

On Mr. McKiernan’s second point, I am perplexed. There are clearly areas where cooperation is mutually beneficial and appropriate; however, outright competition and “coopetition” are realities that must be recognized, respected and considered. Valley cities have a regional “brotherhood,” but the cities are decidedly different – and most of their respective citizens proudly claim and admit as much. There is nothing sinister about civic pride and friendly competition.

I was frankly baffled by Mr. McKiernan’s suggestion that Snoqualmie should pay the entire cost of a $51,000 economic development process and redesign our efforts to focus on the entire Valley. For several years, North Bend has wisely invested in a staff member whose time is dedicated to its economic development. I would never think of demanding that the North Bend City Council wholly redirect its employees’ efforts to include Snoqualmie (at no charge). They have every right and responsibility to address North Bend’s interests first and foremost.

I also strongly reject the implication that the Snoqualmie City Council is not working cooperatively with the entire Valley business community. In fact, our annual financial contribution (aside from member dues) to the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce is three times that of North Bend’s, while our businesses represent far less than half of the chamber’s overall membership. In addition, Snoqualmie residents spend a great deal more money in North Bend stores than vice versa. Would it be “doing a disservice to Snoqualmie” to suggest that we would prefer to keep those dollars (and tax revenue) in Snoqualmie?

Snoqualmie has unique challenges regarding its retail districts, business park and downtown revitalization. These challenges require a focused effort that will not always be appropriate for Upper Valley collaboration. As a council member, my first duty is to the residents and businesses of Snoqualmie. Like North Bend, it is time we invested resources into solving our own unique problems, while wisely collaborating when it is mutually beneficial.

As for Mr. McKiernan’s last concern, I know there are many talented individuals and businesses in the Valley. (It is important to note that a final decision has not yet been made.) However, I am confident that we are focusing on one of our best options.

Destination Development has worked with more than 250 communities and organizations throughout North America and abroad during the past 25 years. Roger Brooks has recruited more than $2.8 billion related to new tourism development projects in rural communities and destination resorts. They and like organizations have a proven track record of creating significant and measurable returns on investments.

The Snoqualmie City Council and mayor would be negligent in our duties if we were to abdicate our responsibility to sustain, protect and promote well-planned economic development. While this process will focus primarily on Snoqualmie, it certainly has tremendous potential to benefit the Valley as a whole.

I look forward to future conversations with Mr. McKiernan and the entire business community as we all continue working together to promote Snoqualmie and the Valley for the benefit of our residents, businesses and quality of life.

Matt Larson is a Snoqualmie City Councilman