Clallam official: Port should take over Economic Development Council’s role

By James Casey, March 14, 2015, Peninsula Daily News


Let Jim, John and Colleen do it ­— Jim Hallett, John Calhoun and Colleen McAleer, that is.


The three Port of Port Angeles commissioners and their staff should be Clallam County’s economic development promoters, a county commissioner told them last week.


Mike Chapman, who has objected to spending county funds to staff a redesigned Economic Development Council (EDC), said the port already is tasked by the state with promoting business growth.


Port commissioners liked the idea, although the EDC’s executive director didn’t.


“The port is empowered to be the economic engine that delivers economic improvement for the county,” said Port Commissioner McAleer, who voted last month to withhold a $50,000 contribution to the EDC, saying the agency lacked accountability.


And the port by state law must conduct its deliberations in public, Chapman said.


Port has staff


“You guys also have trained staff,” he told commissioners Thursday at a meeting where they’d heard Platypus Marine propose to double its physical and economic footprint on the Port Angeles harborfront.


Bill Greenwood, EDC executive director, had little enthusiasm for Chapman’s idea, telling the Peninsula Daily News on Friday it had been floated in 2011 but sank for lack of support.


Greenwood said it was more important to shrink the EDC board from 28 to 17 members — which some participants say should be recruited from industry, not from the local governments that now dominate it.


The Clallam County commissioners — Chapman, Bill Peach and Jim McEntire — are scheduled to select their representatives to the EDC when they meet at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Room 160 of the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles.


They will vote March 24 on whether to give the EDC $150,000 from the county general fund to expand its staff. That amount was pared down from McEntire’s original proposal to spend $500,000 of the county’s Opportunity Fund to hire more EDC employees.


The current EDC board will meet at 10:15 a.m. Thursday at the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center, 905 W. Ninth St., Port Angeles.


“We just want to get through that [board reorganization],” Greenwood said, adding that Chapman’s notion “might have some reasonableness” for later discussion.


McEntire agreed.


“If Mike Chapman brings that up when we discuss making appointments to the EDC board, I’ll say that’s a very valuable conversation to have — but let’s have it after the EDC discussion,” he said.


At issue is what group should be Clallam County’s economic development agency and advise county commissioners how to spend the sales-tax-supported Opportunity Fund that stands at $3.5 million.


Presently, the EDC fills that role.


Despite McEntire’s support for Greenwood’s push to beef up the EDC staff, he told the PDN on Friday he wondered if the county truly needs it.


“Does the port want to do away with [it] and do what the [EDC] is now set up to do?” he asked.


Port Commissioner Hallett’s answer Thursday already was yes.


Should be the port


“The established economic development arm of the county should be the port,” he said at Thursday’s meeting.


The port’s staff and elected board already are in place, he said, and could spare the county added expense.


Like McAleer, Hallett last month criticized Greenwood’s bid to hire more EDC staff with funds the county traditionally has spent on infrastructure like a sewer system in Carlsborg.


He said Greenwood hadn’t followed public process and that the EDC’s current board hadn’t even endorsed the idea.


The port’s authority spans Clallam County and falls under right-to-know protections like the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.


“We are countywide, and we are held accountable to the public,” Hallett said, adding:


“The goal is to grow the economy. The goal isn’t to create an organization.”


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