Skagit County Trends Newsletter


John Sternlicht Photo

Q: As the CEO of the organization promoting economic development in Skagit County, you face an interesting mix of industries: agriculture, manufacturing, retail and tourism. How do you prioritize your organization's efforts among these important sectors?
A: I never pose these interests as competing or "either/or" scenarios. The goal of economic development is a diverse, resilient, and sustainable economy, so this diversity is one of our goals in recruiting and growing businesses. I would also add maritime and clean tech to your categories. All of these sectors are critical to our local economy and we work daily to strengthen each of them.

Q: Your web site offers data on the county's current demographics and workforce. In your efforts to recruit companies, what matters most to the prospective companies?
A: Workforce clearly matters most, and that can be further broken down into education, training, numbers and location, housing, health care, commuting patterns, and other factors. Employers like to locate where employees like to locate - so they look for areas with high quality of life and recreational opportunities, two factors in which we have natural advantages. Companies are starting to look at proximity to not only infrastructure (roads, rail, water, airports, utilities, fiber) but also to customers and suppliers factors into company decisions.

Q: Which of the indicators of Skagit County Trends have been helpful to your recruitment or retention strategies?

A: It's difficult to single one out, although of course I use the Economic Vitality tab the most. Information on demographics (people and companies) is critically important. Also, commuting patterns are helpful in identifying current and prospective business needs. I'm a numbers geek so I can't pick a favorite.

Q: You're a relatively new to the county. As you consider your first impressions and also look at the various descriptions of life that are captured in the Trends, are there any that stand out?
A: There are many things that line up pretty well with WA and US numbers, but the more remarkable aspects are things we have worked on at the Population Health Trust Board, including educational attainment numbers that support the need for more early learning opportunities, the need for more substance abuse and mental health treatment resources, and barriers to participation in the labor force.

Q: "Data-driven decision-making" is a popular term at the moment. In your experience in Skagit County, have you sensed a desire to employ data to inform decisions - in the private or public sectors.
A: In Skagit County and everywhere, yes. In the economic development land, data is the currency of the realm. This is not new for companies making location decisions, although non-data factors (quality of life) play an increasingly important role in order to attract and retain the best workforce. Here in Skagit County, policymakers rely on data to inform their decisions and target limited resources, just as they should!