The year 2017 was a banner year for economic development and much of it was celebrated at the annual meeting of the Tacoma-Pierce County Economic Development Board held Thursday, March 8 at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center.
“You are a very popular group,” said Bruce Kendall, president and CEO of the EDB, to the crowd of more than 550 business, civic, nonprofit, and education leaders in attendance. “That’s just not me talking. All these media platforms have discovered Tacoma and have shown that investment needs to come here. The business that we recruit and retain like what they see in Tacoma.”
Kendall’s overarching theme for the afternoon program was a motto that the EDB lives and breathes by in its work and a favorite refrain of Kendall’s: “Compete every day forever.” He also pointed to three words that would carry the mission of the EDB forward in 2018: “cranes, planes, and brains.”
Cranes sighted in Tacoma, he pointed out, represented the promise of job growth in Pierce County.
“There will be cranes building Class A office space in our future if we work together,” Kendall said.
Planes pointed to the likely prospect that Pierce County could win the contract this year for production of the next great Boeing aircraft called the New Mid-Market Airplane. As part of the Governor’s Choose Washington Council, the EDB is working with its partners to win the contract.
Finally, brains points to Tacoma’s and Pierce County’s burgeoning ecosystem of incubators, shared work spaces, and The Institute of Technology at UW-Tacoma, that all together help to solidify the region as a growing technology hub.
Kendall spoke of the successful recruitments over the past year and how much of those were years in the making.
“We have a lot to learn from each of those wins,” he said. “Infoblox, for example, considered moving out of state but we worked hard to recruit them and now they project growing from 50 employees up to 200 FTEs in 2018.”
On the opposite side of the coin, Kendall said much could be learned from the region’s losses. He cited the work that went into the 50-member team to attract the Amazon HQ2 headquarters last October.
“A lot of work into attracting HQ2 helped the development of important innovations as we look to attract other tech companies,” Kendall added.
The annual meeting featured the announcement of the 2018 Excellent 10 Winners, representing those 10 projects that made a significant impact on the Pierce County economy. These comprised 7 Seas Brewing Company; The American Job Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord; the announced Behavioral Health Hospital in Tacoma; the Foothills Trail extension in east Pierce County; Infoblox in Tacoma; Lakewood-Tacoma Logistics Center; New Sound Transportation in Fife; RAIN Incubator in Tacoma; Union Club in Tacoma; and Wilcox Family Farms in Roy.
Finally, the 2018 Golden Shovel award honored UW-Tacoma and its ongoing role in downtown Tacoma’s physical transformation into a thriving urban hub. Jill Purdy, UW-Tacoma’s interim executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, along with Mark Pagano, UW-Tacoma chancellor, accepted the award.
Purdy said that the award is dedicated to the visionaries and all the supporters who have invested in UW Tacoma.
“We look forward to continuing to support companies in Pierce County and the Pierce County workforce,” Purdy said.
The annual meeting rounded out with a panel called Innovation Works that featured Andrew Fry, director of industry partnerships at UW-Tacoma; Debbie Lee, CEO at Tool Gauge; Dona Ponepinto, CEO at United Way of Pierce County; Carla Santorno, superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools; and moderated by Tom Layson, managing editor at KBTC and producer-host of “Northwest Now.”