Last month, the Seattle Metro Chamber and Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) embarked on the sixth annual In-State Study Mission to another region of Washington state. More than 25 business, elected, and civic leaders from across the Puget Sound participated in a two-day bus trip to Kitsap, Jefferson, and Clallam counties to explore innovation happening in that part of the state, continue building and improving relations between our cities and regions, and form stronger bonds between our leaders.
Participants in this year’s trip had the unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas are addressing current challenges, and reinventing themselves for future economic opportunities. The trip agenda covered several important topics and industry sectors, including military and defense, regional transit investments, economic development in the tribes, higher education partnerships, rural economic development, growth in the outdoor recreation economy, and the future of Washington’s historic timber industry.
Local business and elected leaders joined the delegation along the way and shared their enthusiasm about the future of the peninsula economies, stressing the importance of establishing and maintaining strategic partnerships between the rural and urban communities around our state. While the Peninsula economies have improved in recent years, leaders emphasized ongoing challenges facing their communities – most importantly the challenge of developing and retaining a skilled workforce. Higher education institutions like Western Washington University, Olympic College, and Peninsula College are taking this challenge head-on through the creation of innovative programs like the new cybersecurity training programs offered on the Olympic and Peninsula College campuses in Poulsbo and Port Angeles.
On the Olympic Peninsula, leaders are advancing growth in non-traditional industries like outdoor recreation, encouraging travelers from around the world to visit and take advantage of access to the peninsula’s unrivaled natural resources and capitalizing on recent changes to the landscape like the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams. The region is currently working to complete the Olympic Discovery Trail, creating a nonmotorized multiuse trail system connecting communities across Washington’s North Olympic Peninsula.
Regional leaders are also looking to bring traditional economic sectors into the 21st century through technological advancements. Timber-related industries, formerly a backbone of rural economies across western Washington, have been in decline for the past several decades due to factors like decreased demand and changes to manufacturing technology. New innovations in forestry and construction like cross-laminated timber (CLT) have spurred regional leaders into action in pursuit of creating a new hub of timber-related economic activity that could serve the future needs of construction around the country and world. CLT is a relatively new structurally engineered wood product that would allow for sustainable wood construction comparable to other high-rise residential and commercial buildings in production today. Local governments and business associations, in partnership with statewide elected leaders and universities, are actively advocating for changes to the state building construction codes that would incentivize manufacturers to capitalize on this unique opportunity and make Washington state a global leader in CLT production and manufacturing.
The In-State Study Mission continues to highlight the significance of successful existing and future partnerships that drive economic growth, increase quality of life, and address environmental challenges across our region and state. The 2017 In-State Study Mission demonstrates the importance of developing relationships between communities along the I-5 corridor and our neighbors west of the Puget Sound. Across the state, we face similar challenges around the important issues of affordability, workforce development and economic innovation; the success of the Puget Sound region is inextricably linked to the success of cities and counties in places like Kitsap County and the Olympic Peninsula, and vice versa. The Seattle Metro Chamber will continue to build on these successes and pursue new opportunities for statewide collaboration into the future.
For more information about the Chamber’s international, domestic and in-state study missions, contact Scott Kennedy, the Chamber’s External Relations Manager.